Democrats want voting rights restored to felons currently in prison

This is the policy of just two other states and the District of Columbia.

Reps. Cedrick Frazier, left, and Andy Smith both spoke in favor of never taking away the right to vote from felons. (MN House Info)

Minnesota Democrats want to join just a handful of states where felons never lose their right to vote.

This was revealed during a House floor debate Thursday night, which saw the passage of Rep. Cedrick Frazier’s, DFL-New Hope, bill to restore voting rights to felons once they are released from incarceration. Under current law, felons are not allowed to vote until they complete their entire sentence, including probation and parole.

All but two Republicans — Reps. Danny Nadeau and Andrew Myers — voted against the legislation. House Republicans said the bill is a bad idea because of Minnesota’s status as a low-incarceration state.

“The very first bill having anything to do with crime to be brought to the House floor this year is restoring voting rights in a state that incarcerates people at half the rate of the national average,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch.

She described the DFL’s arguments in favor of the bill as a “red herring” because many of Minnesota’s offenders aren’t actually spending any time in prison.

“We’ve heard phrases like, ‘Folks who are returning to society,’ ‘People who have served their time.’ We’ve heard the phrase, ‘When they are released.’ We’ve heard lots of these phrases, but here’s the problem: In the state of Minnesota, many of these people never serve time,” she said.

Alpha News and Crime Watch Minneapolis have spent the last few years documenting this trend, particularly for child pornography convictions.

Here are some examples:

“In the state of Minnesota, we choose to use probation as a punishment instead of incarceration,” Neu Brindley said.

In 2019, 40% of those who were convicted of crimes with a presumptive prison sentence were never incarcerated, she said. Another 28% of people who were convicted of criminal sexual conduct were never incarcerated.

Frazier’s bill states that any individual who is “ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction has the civil right to vote restored during any period when the individual is not incarcerated for the offense.”

“We have a theme in this chamber right now: just close your eyes and plow through. Good policy be damned,” Neu Brindley commented.

Democrats, however, don’t think Frazier’s legislation goes far enough. They admitted throughout the night that they believe criminals should never lose their right to vote, even while incarcerated.

“I also believe that inmates, who are citizens, who are counted in the census, and who are still subjected to involuntary servitude, also deserve the right to vote while imprisoned. I urge members to embrace truly universal suffrage for all Minnesotan citizens,” Rep. Andy Smith, DFL-Rochester, said in a statement.

This is the policy of just two other states and the District of Columbia. In 21 states, felons’ voting rights are restored once they are on probation or parole. In 26 states, felons lose their voting rights indefinitely or for the entirety of their sentence.

Democrats also rejected an amendment to prevent murderers and rapists who are on probation or parole from voting.

The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Friday, where Democrat Secretary of State Steve Simon testified in favor of the legislation.

“[If people are] safe enough and worthy enough to be among us, surely they’re worthy enough to have a say and a stake in what happens to them,” he said.

Bill sponsors said the legislation will impact about 55,000 Minnesotans.


Anthony Gockowski
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Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.