Despite a broad coalition of backers and newfound bipartisan support, a measure to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they are released from behind bars once again appears doomed over reluctance from anonymous House lawmakers. The “Restore the Vote” movement appeared to receive new life in the 2015 legislative session, after some Republican lawmakers, along with conservative and libertarian-leaning groups, joined the 13-year-old push for reform. The 47,000 Minnesotans now under post-release supervision are not allowed to vote until they’re “off paper” — a process that can take years. If passed, the measure would put Minnesota in line with 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
The bill breezed through Senate committees and awaits a floor vote there. But the House version has yet to receive a single hearing, even though Rep. Tony Cornish, who chairs the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee, is the chief author. Cornish, R-Vernon Center, can decide which bills his committee will hear, but has not taken up this one. The bill must be heard by Friday in order to remain viable.
“Not everybody’s comfortable with it yet, that’s all I can tell you,” said Cornish, who declined to say who opposed the bill. “Until everybody is comfortable having a hearing, I’m not going to force the bill down their throat,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to it if it happens.”