MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The ACLU and ACLU-MN filed a petition for review with Minnesota’s highest court Tuesday afternoon, seeking to end the disenfranchisement of more than 53,000 Minnesotans.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Minnesota and pro bono co-counsel at Faegre Drinker filed the appeal in Schroeder v. Minnesota Secretary of State. The lawsuit represents people with felony convictions who are barred from voting while on supervision or probation, even after they have finished any prison term and even if they have never spent a day in prison.
The plaintiffs are among more than 53,000 Minnesotans who live and work in their communities, raising families and paying taxes, yet are not allowed to decide who will represent them. They live in every county of our state.
“Classifying people as second-class citizens and depriving them of the right to vote while they’re on felony probation serves no rightful purpose,” said Theresa Lee, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Denying people the vote violates our Constitution and hinders some of the bedrock objectives of our criminal legal system, including rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.”
The lawsuit asks the Minnesota Supreme Court to restore people’s voting rights and declare the practice of disenfranchising people living in the community on probation, parole, or supervised release to be unconstitutional.
“It’s undisputed that the current law results in significant racial disparities with respect to the right to vote and directly converts disparities in the criminal legal system into racial political inequality,” said ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney. “It’s plainly discriminatory, wrong, and unconstitutional. There is absolutely no reason why the court should uphold this disenfranchisement scheme.”
African Americans comprise about 4% of Minnesota’s voting-age population, but more than 20% of these disenfranchised voters. Indigenous people are about 1% of Minnesota’s voting-age population, but 7% of the disenfranchised.
“The state Supreme Court has an essential role to play to ensure that our clients have not been unconstitutionally deprived of the right to vote, and we are confident that the court will conclude that this pointless deprivation of voting rights is incompatible with the state’s constitutional democracy,” said Craig Coleman, a partner with Faegre Drinker, pro bono co-counsel on the case.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled against the ACLU’s arguments on May 24, 2021. The case originally was filed in Ramsey County District Court in October 2019.
View the original complaint, press release and voting rights fact sheet at https://www.aclu-mn.org/en/press-releases/aclu-mn-sues-restore-voting-rights-minnesota.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes, protects, and extends the civil liberties and civil rights of people in Minnesota through litigation, lobbying, and community engagement. Learn more at aclu-mn.org.