Minnesota senators again went on record Tuesday in favor of restoring voting rights more quickly to felons no longer incarcerated, a plan that faces stiff opposition in the Republican-led House. Currently, felons must complete their parole and probation before regaining voting rights. Some 47,000 people would be affected by the proposal, supporters said. Voting by ex-inmates has been a prominent issue nationally, with Virginia’s governor using an executive order last week restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons in his state. Given resistance among House leadership, chances remain slim that the legislation will reach DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the form the Senate approved it. Similar legislation won Senate approval last year but didn’t go any further.
The measure was attached to a wider-ranging election policy bill that also would authorize touch-screen voting systems as an option in polling places. The bill passed on a party-line 37-26 vote.
Sen. Jeffrey Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said integrating freed felons back into society means restoring the voting franchise sooner. He said people on probation or parole are permitted to work and pay taxes, so they should have a say in how their communities are governed.
“It is time for us to not continue to penalize and penalize and penalize people for their past indiscretions,” Hayden said. “It is time for us to enfranchise them. It is time for us to move forward and allow folks to vote.”