An unusual alliance of some of the state’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers at the Capitol this year are supporting an effort that would allow convicted felons to vote once they leave prison. Under Minnesota law, convicted felons are only eligible to vote after they’ve completed all terms of their sentences — including probation or supervised release. Bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Bobbie Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow convicted felons to vote after finishing their prison sentences. It would restore voting rights to an estimated 47,000 Minnesotans. On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats joined together at a press conference to tout the effort. Joining them were representatives from the Restore the Vote Coalition, which is comprised of more than 60 organizations that include public safety groups, churches and civil rights organizations.
Among those traveling to St. Paul to advocate for the legislation was Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman. As part of her job, she said she has worked with people enrolled in the county’s drug court who are trying to turn their lives around.
“There are participants who want to be part of the community. They’ve got jobs, they have their kids back, their families back, they’re paying taxes, but they can’t vote. So they are disenfranchised form our community,” Sonneman said.