Politics and Government

Minnesota felon voting law attracts lawsuit

voter registration application forms are display
Minnesota voter registration application forms and informational brochures for "voting with a criminal record" are displayed during the "Restore the Vote" implementation rally at Arlington Hills Community Center on June 1 in St. Paul.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated 3:40 p.m.

Minnesota’s new law granting quicker restoration of voting rights to people convicted of felonies is being challenged in court by a group disputing the way it was enacted.

A group known as the Minnesota Voters Alliance sued in Anoka County District Court Thursday to try to stop the law passed by the Legislature earlier this year. It allows adults who aren’t incarcerated to vote even if they remain on parole or probation, which were obstacles they faced in the past.

An estimated 50,000 people were impacted by the change, which will allow them to vote in elections beginning this year.

In the lawsuit, the conservative voter’s group argues that writers of the state constitution intended for all aspects of a sentence to be completed before civil rights, including voting, are restored. They say a change approved by the Legislature isn’t enough.

“The Legislature cannot declare the Constitution satisfied without doing the work to satisfy it. The point of the Constitution (the point of any constitution, for that matter) is that even where it gives power to the Legislature, the Legislature is still constrained by the Constitution’s supreme authority as to the boundaries of legislative power,” Attorney James Dickey wrote in the legal filing.

The voting rights of felons has been through Minnesota courts before. In February, the Minnesota Supreme Court deferred to the Legislature to determine when a person could regain voting rights. 

The law passed soon after and registration of people covered by the law began in early June. 

Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, sponsored the bill that led to the change. In reaction to the lawsuit, Frazier said he was confident it would withstand scrutiny. But he said the action could “create confusion and fear among our neighbors who had recently had their voting rights restored.”

The Office of Secretary of State, one of the defendants in the case, declined to comment on the merits of the case but said it would continue to move forward with implementation of the law.

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