The Minnesota DFL Party announced Wednesday that illegal immigrants and felons who haven’t completed their sentences will be allowed to participate in precinct caucuses.
Party Chair Ken Martin praised the move as a “historic rule change” that reflects the party’s values.
“No Minnesotan should be denied the right to help shape the future of our party because of where they were born or because of mistakes they made in the past and have paid their debt to society for,” he said.
“The DFL Party believes strongly in a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and in re-enfranchising ex-felons who have paid their debts to society.”
In Minnesota, felons can’t vote until they finish their full sentence, including probation or parole, nor can non-citizens. The DFL argued in various lawsuits that these rules shouldn’t apply to caucuses because they are a violation of the right to freedom of association.
This legal battle culminated in a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision earlier this month.
“Given the ordinary accepted meanings of the words ‘election’ and ‘caucus,’ we conclude that the penalties in these election statutes unambiguously apply to elections, not caucuses,” the court said in its ruling.
Precinct caucuses are the process by which local party units elect delegates and alternates, who in turn endorse candidates and elect leadership at party conventions.
In effect, the DFL will now allow “non-voting Minnesotans” to “run to be delegates to future conventions, vote on endorsements, run for party leadership positions, and introduce resolutions to the DFL Party Platform and Action Agenda,” Martin explained.
Minnesota GOP Chair David Hann said “illegally opening” the caucus and convention process to ineligible voters is a “clear violation of Minnesota law.”
He pointed to Minnesota Statutes, which clearly state that “only those individuals who are or will be eligible to vote at the time of the next state general election, may vote or be elected a delegate or officer at the precinct caucus.”
“Citizenship comes with certain rights and privileges. Non-citizens do not have those rights and should not gain those privileges. Citizenship is the foundation of the civic compact. By rejecting citizenship, the DFL has rejected the foundation of our democratic republic,” he said.
The GOP predicts that the rule change will invite “non-citizens to break the law and vote for their candidates in November.” In Minneapolis, one council member wants to make this a reality.
“Having been deeply involved in election protection efforts over the last several years, I can only say this is a shocking new low for the DFL,” said Deputy Chairwoman Donna Bergstrom. “As the mother of a legally adopted son from Guatemala, I look forward to the time when my son will be able to exercise his full rights as a citizen to participate in the election process.”