State Watch

ACLU sues Minnesota to restore voting rights for convicted felons

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state over a law disenfranchising felons who have completed their sentences or received probation.

The organization, which filed the suit on behalf of four people affected by the policy, said the practice affects more than 52,000 Minnesotans.

{mosads}“No legitimate or rational government interest is served by barring people from voting while they’re on probation,” said ACLU of Minnesota staff attorney David McKinney.

“The criminal justice system is supposed to be about reform, redemption, and reintegration into society. Denying people the vote flies in the face of these goals while violating a fundamental right,” McKinney added.

One of the four plaintiffs, Jennifer Schroeder, who was convicted of drug possession and is now an addiction counselor, will not be able to vote under the current policy for 40 years, at which point she will be 71.

“I am dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others. I should have the right to vote for the person who I think will make policy changes that will enable me to be successful,” Schroeder said in a statement. “There’s absolutely no reason that anyone who’s served their time should be stripped of their right to participate in our democracy.”

The complaint argues that the policy is a violation of the state constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law.

“Minnesota has never articulated any justification for disenfranchising citizens who live in our communities following a felony conviction, and none exists. The exclusion of these citizens from the political process is fundamentally wrong, undemocratic, and corrosive to constitutional governance,” said Craig Coleman, a partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, pro bono co-counsel on the case.

A spokesperson for Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) said his office does not comment on pending litigation but that Simon’s “support for changing the law to restore the right to vote to those who have left prison behind is well established.”


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