UPDATED Nov. 30, 2021: We argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court today, asking the court to end the disenfranchisement of 53,000 Minnesotans!
UPDATED Aug. 10, 2021: The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear our appeal!
UPDATED JUNE 22, 2021: The ACLU and ACLU-MN filed a petition for review with the state Supreme Court, seeking to end the disenfranchisement of more than 53,000 Minnesotans.
UPDATED Feb. 24, 2021: The ACLU-MN is in the Minnesota Court of Appeals today to continue arguments on behalf of 55,000 Minnesotans who are disenfranchised while on felony probation or supervision. In the video above, join two of the attorneys in this case as they recap arguments and discuss our progress.
UPDATED Sept. 30, 2020: The ACLU-MN appealed our voting rights case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We are asking the court to restore voting rights and declare the practice of disenfranchising persons living in the community on probation, parole, or supervised release to be unconstitutional.
Oct. 21, 2019
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of Minnesotans.
Schroeder v. Minnesota Secretary of State was filed in Ramsey County District Court by the ACLU of Minnesota and national ACLU on behalf of people with felony convictions who are barred from voting while they are on supervision or probation, even after they have finished any prison term or even if they’ve never spent a day in prison.
“No legitimate or rational government interest is served by barring people from voting while they’re on probation,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “The criminal justice system is supposed to be about reform, redemption, and reintegration into society. Denying people the vote flies in the face of these goals while violating a fundamental right.”
“Minnesota has never articulated any justification for disenfranchising citizens who live in our communities following a felony conviction, and none exists. The exclusion of these citizens from the political process is fundamentally wrong, undemocratic, and corrosive to constitutional governance,” said Craig Coleman, a partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, pro bono co-counsel on the case.
The plaintiffs in Schroeder v. Minnesota Secretary of State are among more than 52,000 Minnesotans who are living and working in their communities, raising families and paying taxes, yet aren’t allowed to decide who will represent them. They live in every county of our state.
Plaintiff Jen Schroeder will spend 40 years on probation and cannot vote until she is 71.
“I am proud that I have turned my life around,” said Schroeder, who was convicted of drug possession and has since become a drug and alcohol addiction counselor. "I am dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others. I should have the right to vote for the person who I think will make policy changes that will enable me to be successful. There’s absolutely no reason that anyone who’s served their time should be stripped of their right to participate in our democracy.”
Plaintiff Tierre Caldwell, an employment navigator with The Power of People Leadership Institute, is on probation and has not been allowed to vote since the 2008 presidential election. He’s the father of two.
“I can’t vote for my kids’ sake for who to put on the school board. It’s hard to encourage your children to vote when you cannot,” Caldwell said. “Voting is the one thing that makes you feel free. Statistics show the majority of people who vote don’t go back to prison. It makes me feel like they can take my tax money but I can’t participate in selecting our leadership.”
The complaint cites due process and equal protection violations under the state Constitution.
“Our clients and thousands like them live in their communities, carrying all of the responsibilities that entails,” said Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Depriving them of voting serves no legitimate purpose and is unconstitutional.”