Your criminal record does NOT affect your right to vote in Minnesota unless you are currently serving a felony conviction sentence, including probation or parole. Learn more about your right to vote if you have a criminal record, or are facing criminal charges with this handout from the MN Secretary of State.
Minnesotans lose the right to vote when they have been convicted of a felony, and do not have that right restored until they have completed their sentence. This means that not only do they have to be released from prison, but also released from any probation, parole, or supervised release. Many Minnesotans are denied the right to vote while they are living in their community, caring for their families, working jobs and paying taxes — even if they have never spent any time in prison or only served a short jail sentence.
The RTV movement seeks to establish a law to restore voting rights automatically to individuals with past felony convictions so long as they are not incarcerated. Currently, 13 states have voting restoration laws in place. In Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, citizens never lose their voting rights for a felony conviction, even while they are incarcerated.
The RTV effort is an important part of valuing all Minnesotans as members of our society. LWVMN is proud to work alongside a coalition of partners to restore the vote to nearly 65,000 Minnesotans with past felony convictions who are now living within our communities.
Restoring the vote also dismantles residual Jim Crow laws by ensuring people who have experienced incarceration, criminalization, and imprisonment receive restoration of their voting rights. This legislation is popular, timely and the right thing to do for all Minnesota families and for the health of Minnesota’s democracy. But most importantly, restoring the rights granted by citizenship restores their voice and dignity — and restored people also restore and empower our communities.
To fully understand the effort to restore the vote, it is important to first understand what the original impact of the policy was, and how that has changed. This paper provides a more in-depth history of felony disenfranchisement, but here is a brief summary:
Felony disenfranchisement has been used in various forms throughout history. In ancient Greece, it was called a “civil death.” In the United States, the policy was traditionally used as a way to target Black populations in the South, post-Civil War. Although Minnesota adopted felony disenfranchisement before the Civil War, the effect remains the same: there is a significant racial disparity in who is disenfranchised.
It is also important to recognize that when Minnesota first adopted the felony disenfranchisement policy, there were only about 75 crimes that were considered a felony; today there are upwards of 400. The criminal justice system was simpler than it is now. A felony conviction (of which there were fewer) meant prison time, and nothing else. In the many reforms to the system since the 1860s, different treatments of felony sentences have been added, including probation and stayed sentences.
These changes to the criminal justice system have an unintended consequence: now someone who is living in a community, earning wages to support themselves and their families, and paying taxes may still be ineligible to vote. Previous research has indicated that restoring a person’s right to vote reduces the rates of recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend). If felony disenfranchisement was intended as a crime deterrent, it is failing. It also plays a role in disengaging multiple generations from the civic process that can reduce recidivism, as children are more likely to engage and vote as adults if their parents do.
The differences in the criminal justice system from when the felony disenfranchisement policy was adopted to now, mean that a significantly larger proportion of the population is impacted, and in many ways that were never anticipated.
MINNESOTA SECOND CHANCE COALITION
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