Gov. Walz signs bill restoring voting rights to 50,000 formerly incarcerated Minnesotans
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill on Friday morning that will give formerly incarcerated Minnesotans the right to vote.
Democrats have been pushing for this legislation for years. The new law will give more than 50,000 Minnesotans, previously convicted of a felony, immediate voting access across the state.
Surrounded by politicians and supporters, Gov. Walz signed the bill into law, immediately restoring voting rights for felons no longer in custody.
"We are in a country of second chances, we're a country of welcoming people back in. And the idea of not allowing those voices to have a say in the very governing of the communities they live in, is simply unacceptable," Walz said.
"People who are prohibited from voting, they have to pay their taxes, they have to obey all the laws, they have to do everything," said Attorney General Keith Ellison. "But they don't have any choice in who represents them. Now they do."
Supporters of the bill say it's a big win for restorative justice.
Once released from prison, a convicted felon doesn't have to complete probation or parole to vote.
"Thanks to the law, I'll get to vote again along with 50,000 other Americans," said Jennifer Schroder.
Schroder and Pastor Brian Herron, Sr., are two supporters previously convicted of crimes, who will now be able to vote.
"Voting is a civil right. The voices of the people who are struggling should not be silenced," said Schroder.
"If we are going to be a just state, a just society and nation, then we have to believe in redemption," said Herron.
A number of Republicans have opposed the legislation, including Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove). In a statement, he said, "Felonies are serious crimes that should require serious consequences. Probation is a time when criminals are to prove they can adjust to their freedom without reverting to former criminal activity. We expect to see them follow the law fully before we allow them to choose lawmakers and judges."
Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) also released a statement, "Despite many campaign promises to address public safety, the bills today will do nothing to reduce violent crime. In fact, it opens our elections to being influenced by convicted felons and illegal immigrants. I really hope the Democrat Majority rethinks their priorities and starts to put Minnesotan/s safety first and foremost."
"The ACLU of Minnesota applauds the decision to end this discriminatory law that led to racial disparities in voting and political inequality," said ACLU-MN Executive Director Deepinder Mayell in a statement. "The goal of the criminal legal system is supposed to be rehabilitation, redemption and helping people rejoin their communities. While there is still much work to be done, this new law brings us one step closer to achieving this goal by giving people a voice and a vote in their own futures."
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