Renee Brown-Goodell is not shy about introducing herself as a felon, a label she has carried without shame after spending more than four years in federal prison for a 2012 fraud conviction. But it still stings that she was forced to sit out the past two elections: Her right to vote remains out of reach until she completes her post-prison supervised release. “I’m out here and I’m expected to work, I’m expected to pay taxes and take care of my family and behave like a regular American citizen should behave,” Brown-Goodell said. “And yet I’m not a regular American citizen because you have stripped away my rights to be a regular American citizen.”
Minnesota is one of 22 states where felons cannot vote until they complete post-incarceration supervision, such as probation or parole. Brown-Goodell’s is the latest in a growing chorus of voices leading a renewed charge to change that, a move that could affect 50,000 to 60,000 Minnesotans like her.
She can now count among her allies Minnesota’s newly sworn-in statewide officeholders and key law enforcement leaders in addition to the advocates who have been lobbying for change for more than a decade. Supporters say restoring voting rights would be a crucial step toward helping felons reintegrate into society in a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of people on probation.