Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Friday that will allow violent criminals who are on probation to vote.
Previously, Minnesota required felons to complete their entire sentence before regaining the right to vote, including probation or parole. Under the new law, felons will be able to vote whenever they are not incarcerated.
During debate in the House and Senate, Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to prevent certain violent criminals and those convicted of felony voter fraud from regaining the right to vote until after serving their full sentence.
The Senate debated a bill today to restore felons' voting rights once they leave prison. They rejected an amendment to prohibit child rapists from voting until they complete probation.
"Survivors also support restore the vote," Sen. Champion claimed. pic.twitter.com/bY26lAz9TH
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) February 21, 2023
They also pointed out that Minnesota is a low-incarceration state, meaning many criminals are immediately placed on probation and never serve any prison time.
“In the state of Minnesota, we choose to use probation as a punishment instead of incarceration,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch.
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.
The 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.”
“Today is a good day for democracy. Today is a good day for justice,” Walz said during Friday’s bill signing ceremony.
“Folks pay their price for the mistakes they made, but in this country, we are a country of second chances. We are a country of welcoming folks back in. The idea of not allowing those voices to have a say in the very governing of the communities they live in is simply unacceptable,” he added.
Attorney General Keith Ellison argued that felons have to pay their taxes but “don’t have any choice in who represents them.”
“Minnesota is not on the cutting edge, folks. In two states, Vermont and Maine, you never lose your right to vote,” he said. “Voting is associated with law-abiding behavior, it’s pro-social.”
Democrats are proposing several other changes to Minnesota’s election system, including automatic voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year olds.