In Minnesota over 52,000 individuals have their voices silenced every Election Day due to a felony conviction even though they are not in jail or prison. This violates the principles of democracy that our country was founded on. We want to change the law to make it simple, clear, and more just; if you live in the community you should be able to vote. 

  • It will make our communities stronger and safer
    • Individuals who vote take a more active role in the community and set a good example for their children.
  • It makes voting more user-friendly
    • Our current system is confusing, and often leaves people wondering when and if they are eligible. Changing the law would make it simple: if you are not behind bars you can vote.
    • The law change would also make it easier for elections officials to administer.  Automatically enfranchising people upon their release from incarceration does not require complex restoration procedures that are cumbersome to administer, and thereby conserves government resources and saves taxpayer dollars.
  • The current law disproportionately impacts people of color
    • As one example, 1 in 8 African American men is barred from voting due to disenfranchisement.

The ACLU-MN is a part of the Restore the Vote - Minnesota coalition that is working to change this law.

Did you know...?:

  • In 2011, of the 63,000 Minnesotans who were unable to vote due to a past criminal conviction, only about 16,000 were behind bars in prison or jail. In other words, 75% of those who have been denied the right to vote under Minnesota law are living in the community, working to earn a wage and support their families and pay taxes like all of us.
  • Nearly 6 million American citizens are unable to vote because of a past criminal conviction. As many as 4.4 million of these citizens live, work, and raise families in our communities. But because of a conviction in their past, they are still denied this fundamental democratic right. These laws, deeply rooted in our troubled racial history, have a disproportionate impact on minorities. Across the country, 13 percent of African-American men have lost their right to vote, which is seven times the national average.
  • Since 1974, the percentage of voting-age Minnesotans disenfranchised as a result of a criminal conviction has increased over 400%.
  • 13 States already allow people to vote upon release - Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Utah.
  • The right to vote forms the core of American democracy. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation.
  • Felony disenfranchisement laws are firmly rooted in the Jim Crow era and were intended to bar minorities from voting. The intended effects of these laws continue today: nationwide 2 million African-Americans are disenfranchised.
  • Allowing people to vote after release from prison encourages participation in civil life and helps rebuild ties to the community that motivate law-abiding behavior.
  • Restoring voting rights to people out of prison eliminates the opportunity for erroneous purges of eligible citizens from the voting rolls and relieves confusion among election officials and the public about who is eligible to vote.
Minnesotans who have a felony conviction lose the right to vote until they have been released from supervision, including while they are living in the community, even if they never spent any time in prison. Restoring the right to vote for those living in the community will positively engage more people in the democratic process, make the law clear, save resources, and ultimately make all Minnesota communities safer and more just. The ACLU-MN supports legislation that would allow individuals to vote once they are living in the community.

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