Reader's view: Felons who serve their time should be able to vote
I am writing to urge the Legislature to take action to change Minnesota’s antiquated felony-disenfranchisement law, which takes away the right to vote from people with criminal convictions, even if they are out of prison. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill last week to change this law. Now, the House Elections Committee has until Friday to take up the measure. If the committee does not, the bill will be defeated.
The League of Women Voters Duluth is speaking up on this issue because we believe allowing people to vote when they are released from prison is good for both our democracy and public safety. We are not alone. Elected officials, law-enforcement figures, faith groups, the legal community and civil-rights organizations all support the bill.
Minnesota now bars people with criminal convictions from voting even after they have served their time and have been deemed fit to return to their communities. These individuals cannot exercise this fundamental democratic right until they have completed probation or parole, meaning 47,000 Minnesotans do not have a say in our state’s government.
Allowing these people to vote would benefit the state in two ways. First, it would make our communities stronger by allowing every one of us to have a voice, a goal the League of Women Voters works tirelessly to achieve. Second, it would support public safety by helping to reintegrate the formerly incarcerated into our communities and make them less likely to return to crime.
In Duluth, we care deeply about our neighbors and our community as a whole. Too many of those neighbors do not have a say here and across the state. Our legislators have a chance to change that, but they have to act immediately.
The writer is president of the League of Women Voters Duluth.