The history and impact of felony disenfranchisement

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The University of Minnesota Law Review recently published an article on the history and impact of felony disenfranchisement in Minnesota by Mark Haase, a private attorney who represents the Council on Crime and Justice, a member of Restore the Vote MN.

Here is a summary:

Minnesota has retained essentially the same disenfranchisement law adopted upon gaining statehood in 1857. However, since that time, Minnesota’s criminal justice system has undergone massive changes, especially in its expansion in scope—resulting in one of the highest rates of correctional control in the country, and therefore one of the highest rates of felony disenfranchisement in the country and by far in the region. A cost-benefit analysis reveals that there are no tangible benefits to Minnesota’s current disenfranchisement policy, that its costs are high, and that there are tangible benefits to reform. The policy provides no public safety benefit, may even reduce public safety, perpetuates racial disparities, confuses elections, and unnecessarily expends government resources. These negative policy impacts weighed against little to no benefit, combined with changes in criminal justice politics and recent national events, may provide a ripe time for reforming this outdated policy.

Read the complete law review article.

An Open Letter to Speaker Daudt

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Dear Speaker Daudt,

This summer marks the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 ALL members of the Minnesota delegation voted for it. That speaks so strongly to Minnesota’s value of supporting a strong, engaged and fair electorate which rings true across party lines. We have a chance to show that we can come together and uphold this ideal, by passing voting rights restoration.

We ask you to take advantage of the upcoming special session to complete some unfinished business from the regular session – the restoration of voting rights to the approximately 47,000 Minnesotans who live in our communities but still cannot vote due to a felony conviction. This legislation was passed during the regular session by the Senate and we are grateful Governor Dayton has made it one of his priorities for the special session. However, despite strongly bipartisan authorship and support, and despite the diverse membership of our statewide coalition, rights restoration legislation was never allowed to even have a hearing in the House. We met with every Representative that would take a meeting and provided them with detailed, fact-based information. Furthermore, we engaged thousands of Minnesota citizens to speak with their Representatives on this issue. We are deeply disappointed that, despite our success in doing everything a group of citizens can do to bring a policy issue to a vote by our elected leaders, a decision was made behind closed doors to block it from moving forward. We hope you will take this opportunity to give this bipartisan legislation the public consideration it deserves.

As you can see by our membership of over 70 organizations from across the state, voting restoration has support from diverse and important perspectives. We all support restoring voting rights because we believe that once it has been decided that someone can live among us, there is no good reason they should not have a voice in our democracy – taking the positive step of voting should be encouraged. People who feel a part of their communities, and have an opportunity to positively engage in their communities, are less likely to reoffend. Current law is confusing and this change will create a much clearer rule about who can vote, which would save valuable law enforcement resources and make it simpler for all Minnesotans to engage in our state’s democracy.  We should insist on responsibility and consequences for crime, but we should not simply punish for punishment’s sake.  Instead we should work to rehabilitate people and allow them to be a positive example for their children. These friends, neighbors and family members of ours are expected to pay taxes and be subject to our laws and yet current policy denies them the right to vote. This is not the America or the Minnesota that our founders envisioned.

For the above reasons we ask that you, as a statewide leader, support voting restoration language being voted on by the full House during special session.  This issue is extremely important to many Minnesotans and it deserves public consideration. Please also consider the impact on your own constituents and their families. Estimates of Minnesotans disenfranchised in the counties in your district are as follows: Anoka County 3,689, 1.5% of the voting age population; Isanti County 464, 1.6% of the voting age population; and Sherburne County 988, 1.6% of the voting age population. The statewide average disenfranchisement rate is 1.5%.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Restore the Vote Coalition

47,000 Minnesota Citizen’s Voting Rights Were Not Restored This Legislative Session

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May 19, 2015

Despite broad bi-partisan support and an incredibly strong coalition backing it, voting rights restoration legislation failed to pass this legislative session. The bill did pass the Senate, which marks the first time the bill passed a legislative body in all the years it has been introduced.  At numerous points throughout the session the bill generated so much buzz and support that it seemed likely to pass, however, it was never given a hearing in the House. The purpose of the bill is to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who live in the community but are unable to vote because they are still on probation, parole or conditional release.

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Haase, co-chair of the Restore the Vote Coalition.

“While we are incredibly disappointed that 47,000 Minnesotans will not be re-enfranchised this year, we would like to thank all of the sponsors and supporters of this bill.  We are proud of the progress that rights restoration made this year, this issue was finally given the attention it deserved. It was heavily discussed and debated not only at the Capitol, but in the public. Many of the major newspapers endorsed rights restoration legislation and thousands of Minnesotans contacted their legislators asking for voting rights to be restored. I would also like to thank all of the hardworking members of our coalition, it was because of our diverse coalition that this issue finally made some progress. We are not giving up, our coalition is committed to making Minnesota more fair, just and equitable for all. We will continue to fight for this issue until rights have been restored to those 47,000 Minnesotans who live in our communities, but are denied their right to vote.”

The Restore the Vote Coalition, is made up of 72 organizations from across the state including, public safety organizations, governmental bodies, advocacy organizations and faith based groups.

JOIN US FOR A DAY OF ACTION AT THE CAPITOL

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Wednesday April 29 – 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Minnesota Capitol.

Rally At Noon on north lawn of the State Office Building

  • When you arrive, go to room 400N in the State Office Building. That room will serve as a “homebase” from there you will be directed to lobby day visits or other activities.
  • RSVP via email and join our Facebook Page.

We are getting into the final stretch of the 2015 legislative session and we need your help to get this bill passed this session. 47,000 Minnesotans have waited too long to have their voting rights restored and it is now within our grasp to change that. We need this Day of Action at the Capitol to keep the pressure on our elected officials and rally our supporters. We need you to make this day successful. The Day will include lobby visits and a rally. Questions? email us at: contact@restorethevotemn.org

 

Update on the 2015 Legislative Session

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We are over halfway through the 2015 Minnesota Legislative Session!  While our bill has made great progress there is still work to do. Please take a few minutes to let the leadership of the Minnesota House know that restoring the right to vote is important to you!

The Bill is included in the Senate Omnibus bill but has not been heard in the House.  Here is what you can do to help:

House Leadership needs to know our support and be encouraged to support the Voting Restoration bill, HF 342. Please  contact both of them and ask your contacts to do the same. Also, yell Representative Cornish that you support this bill and thank him for his great leadership as chief author and ask him to please push this bill forward. 

Tony Cornish (23B, R)
369 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-4240
Email: rep.tony.cornish@house.mn

Kurt Daudt (31A, R) – Speaker of the House
463 State Office Building
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-5364 or 800-710-7642
E-mail: rep.kurt.daudt@house.mn

Joyce Peppin (R) District 34A – House Majority Leader
* 459 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-7806
E-mail: rep.joyce.peppin@house.mn

Thank you for taking action today!

Second Chance Day on the Hill

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Please join us for Second Chance Day on the Hill on January 29th! While this Day on the Hill covers a number of important issues relating to people impacted by the criminal justice system, one of the main focuses will be rights restoration. Second Chance Day on the Hill will be held on January 29th, 10:00 am at Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, 105 University Ave W, St Paul. The Second Chance Coalition will have buses driving to the capital from Duluth, St. Cloud and two Minneapolis sites. More details are available at the Second Chance Coalition website.

For questions contact Josh Esmay at esmayj@crimeandjustice.org

We are ready for the 2015 Legislative Session

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The 2015 Minnesota Legislative Session has officially begun! The three subcommittees of our campaign, Legislative, Communications, and Organizing have been busy preparing.

We will be formally kicking off the campaign with a lobby day and press conference at the Capitol on January 29, as part of the Second Chance Day on the Hill. More details to come soon.

We hope you can join us for our next meeting on Monday, January 12, at 9:00 a.m. at Redeemer’s Arms  –  313 Dale Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55103.

If you are interested in getting more involved please contact Mark Haase at mahaase@gmail.com.

Thank you!