Time running out on felon voting bill

Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference urged Minnesota House leaders to take action this session on a bill to restore the voting rights of felons. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

A coalition of groups working to restore the voting rights of convicted felons is growing concerned about the prospect of passing a bill this session.

Legislation allowing felons to vote once they’re out of jail, rather than waiting until they’re off probation, is poised for a floor vote in the Minnesota Senate. But it does not yet have a scheduled hearing in the House. The committee deadline is Friday.

During a news conference Wednesday, Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference said the bill enjoys broad bipartisan support.

“All we’re looking for is to move this bill forward in the House,” Adkins said. “There’s very little legislative opposition. We need to meet committee deadlines soon, and we’re asking House leaders and the House of Representatives to move this bill forward this year and pass this legislation.”

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The Restore the Vote Coalition estimates there are 47,000 Minnesotans who live in the community but are unable to vote due to a felony conviction.

Demetria Carter said she recently served 79 days in adult detention but cannot vote until her probation ends in 10 years.

“Restoring the right to vote for me and others like me is essential to restoring human dignity,” Carter said.

House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said it’s up to committee chairs to decide which bills get hearings and which do not.

Peppin said she has not studied the bill but has some concerns about it.

“I think they should probably finish their sentence before voting,” Peppin said.