Coalition Pushing to Restore Voting Rights to Felons
ST. PAUL -- There's a renewed push at the State Capitol to allow convicted felons the right to vote, once they've served their sentence. Current policy prohibits people from voting until they have finished all of the terms of their sentence, including probation, parole or conditional release.
Gina Evans is the Vice President of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. She says she personally lost her right to vote from the age of 19 until she was 32.
After I got sober at 30 I got a job, I paid taxes, I was an active participant in society. I bought a house, I got a better job, and I was doing all these things that our society deems as healthy and what I'm supposed to be doing. But still, I didn't have the right to have a voice in our government.
She says part of the problem is Minnesota has some of the longest probation periods in the county.
If somebody doesn't go to prison and they're given a probation sentence generally within three to five years we know if somebody is doing the right things and are ready to be in the community, or whether they need supervision and maybe need to go back into a facility or complete an in-custody sentence.
Evans says in Minnesota felons who are on probation can't vote. What they're advocating for is a solid line where if you're a felon in jail you can't vote, but if you're not in jail you can.
The coalition says about 62,000 Minnesotans could be impacted by the change.
Evans says similar legislation has already been passed in other states including North Dakota, Montana and Michigan. The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition has been lobbying for felons right to vote for 11 years. A bill has been introduced in the Minnesota House already this legislative session.