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%.
The Restore the Vote Coalition