Convicted felons should have their rights to vote restored once they’ve been released from prison, even if still on probation or parole, the Minnesota Senate voted Thursday. The move was spurred by activists who say felons should be encouraged. “If you’re still a citizen, don’t you deserve the right to participate in our democracy?” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. “Once they’re back out in the community, from Day One … they’re paying taxes, but they don’t have the right to vote on who their representatives are imposing those taxes?”
Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, said Minnesota has 47,000 felons living in communities, and called them “our family members, neighbors, friends.” Letting those felons vote, Champion said, would help them reintegrate into society.
“We don’t want people in prison, we don’t want them incarcerated,” Champion said. “We want them in our communities and doing positive things.”
Felons currently lose their voting rights while still serving out their sentence, even if released on parole or probation. The felon voting measure approved by the Senate on Thursday would continue to deny the vote while felons are incarcerated, but restore it upon release onto probation or parole.