ACLU loses bid to have court issue summary judgement in felon voting case

A Ramsey County District judge denied the ACLU’s motion for summary judgement.

Left: Keith Ellison from Minnesota Attorney General's Office. Right: Steve Simon from Minnesota Secretary of State's Office.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a left-wing legal group, sued the State of Minnesota late last year to strike down the state’s laws prohibiting felons from voting before they finish their probation period.

Last week, a Ramsey County District judge denied the ACLU’s motion for summary judgement — which asked the court to side with the ACLU as a matter of law, without moving forward with the case.

Instead, the judge pointed out that “the framers of the Minnesota Constitution, however, while explicitly disenfranchising individuals convicted of a felony, left it to the Legislature to decide whether, when, and how to restore voting rights.”

The Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) had filed an intervention in the case, and touted its intervention as being a reason the ACLU wasn’t able to reach an agreement with the defendant in the case, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon. 

Simon doesn’t disagree with the felon voting lawsuit, nor does the attorney general, Keith Ellison, who is tasked with defending Minnesota’s laws.

During the inauguration ceremony in January 2018, Simon vowed to restore “the right to vote for those who have left prison behind.” Last year, he released an “Investing in Democracy” plan that would restore voting rights to felons once they are released from prison.

Ellison has been accused of not adequately defending state laws against suits that he hopes will succeed, and Simon has also sought to agree to alter the law with outside liberal groups in the past. 

The ACLU suit on felon voting will still proceed, and many worry that there is no party effectively defending the law passed by the Minnesota Legislature. Earlier this year, a Ramsey County judge kicked MVA out of the case, which was applauded by left-wing outlets such as City Pages, which called MVA a “voter suppression group.”


Willis Krumholz
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Willis L. Krumholz is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.