2014 Session Update

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It has been a remarkable few months. We have made great progress thanks to all of your support. However, despite our hard work, the voting rights restoration bill will not pass this session. Bills need to be first voted on in small committees. Even though there were no compelling arguments against the change, and we had bipartisan support, we were not able to get the bill heard in the right committees because there was not enough political will.

Despite this temporary setback, restoring voting rights for those living in the community has seen significant increases in support and momentum. With your help, support will continue to grow and result in the change we seek next year.

We will convene a meeting sometime after this session slows down to discuss next steps. In the meantime, here are some action step ideas for you: Write letters to the editor in local papers regarding this session’s efforts and result; speak to your legislators now and going forward; recruit new organizations; ask people to visit this website and sign up, ask others to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, and look for speaking opportunities.

Thank you so much for all of your work and support!

Here is a list of some of our accomplishments this year:

  • Over 50 organizations have now officially signed on in support. The list of supporters can be found here.
  • The bill was heard and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee where there was no testimony or statements in opposition to the bill.
  • Coalition members met with over 20 legislators from both parties and had very positive conversations (in addition to the many visits made as part of various days on the Hill).
  • Over 300 voting restoration postcards were delivered to legislators.
  • Hundreds of emails and calls were made to legislators. We do not have a good measure of all the contacts made. The Catholic Conference alone, for example, had approximately 80 members send emails and an uncounted number make phone calls.
  • Voting rights restoration was the featured agenda item of Second Chance Day on the Hill, which included a press conference and received favorable coverage on local prime time television news and other media both locally and nationally.
  • Voting rights restoration was a featured item of days on the hill for MPIRG, Recovery Day on the Hill, Organizing Apprenticeship Project’s Racial Justice Day on the Hill, and the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis annual community forum.
  • This website has been created with supporting information and materials such as a Prezi (online Powerpoint style) presentation and information about geographic distribution and the history of disenfranchisement in Minnesota.
  • A Facebook page has been created and now has 927 “likes”. A Twitter account was also created.
  • Due to many party platform resolutions passed during precinct caucuses, voting rights restoration is being considered for part of the Minnesota DFL party platform.

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. contact@restorethevotemn.org

 

Where are the felony convictions taking place?

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Minnesotans from all corners of the state are barred from voting because of felony convictions. This is not just an urban or rural problem. This is something that affects every single congressional district across the state. In 2012 12,000 people were convicted of felonies. That is 12,000 fewer people on the voting rolls. Many of these 12,000 may never spend a single day in prison yet will still be ineligible to vote. Check out this great pie chart that breaks-out how many felony convictions happened in 2012 in each congressional district. 2012 Felonies by District

Take Action

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We need to fill up the mailboxes of our Senators and Representatives asking them to support Voting Rights Restoration. If you are having a large group gathering, have them fill out Rights restoration action post card. After filling out the cards, mail them to the Council on Crime and Justice (who will in turn send them to the right Senators & Representatives). Please note that each person should fill out two postcards, one that goes to their Senator and one that goes to their Representative. (When Restore the Vote prints them we use Avery Post Cards 5689.) If you would like to order some already printed please contact Jana Kooren at jkooren@aclu-mn.org or 651.645.4097 x123. Council on Crime and Justice’s address is: 822 S 3rd St # 100, Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Prezi Presentation on Voting Restoration

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Check out this awesome Prezi Presentation (it’s like PowerPoint, but better) about voting restoration. Feel free to use this at events or to educate people about why you support voting restoration.

How do Minnesota disenfranchisement laws compare with other states?

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In Minnesota around 60,000 people are disenfranchised because they have a felony conviction on their record. In Minnesota individuals are not eligible to vote until after they have finished all the terms of their sentence including probation and/or parole. 75% of all individuals barred from voting in Minnesota are living in the community, not behind bars. Despite evidence showing that access to voting actually decreases an individuals’ chances of re-offending many states still follow restrictive voting practices.  Nationwide over 2 million people are disenfranchised, in a few states if you have a felony on your record you are never allowed to vote again.

Check out this interactive map from The Pew Charitable Trusts that shows which states have the worst laws.

Interesting Facts about Voting Restoration

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Here are some interesting facts about voting restoration that you can share with friends and colleagues to explain why you support restoring the right to vote.

  • In 2011, of the 63,000 Minnesotans who were unable to vote due to a past criminal conviction, only about 16,000 were behind bars in prison or jail. In other words, 75% of those who have been denied the right to vote under Minnesota law are living in the community, working to earn a wage and support their families and pay taxes like all of us.
  • Nearly 6 million American citizens are unable vote because of a past criminal conviction. As many as 4.4 million of these citizens live, work, and raise families in our communities. But because of a conviction in their past they are still denied this fundamental democratic right. These laws, deeply rooted in our troubled racial history, have a disproportionate impact on minorities. Across the country, 13 percent of African-American men have lost their right to vote, which is seven times the national average.
  • Since 1974, the percentage of voting age Minnesotans disenfranchised as a result of a criminal conviction has increased over 400%.
  • 13 States  already allow people to vote upon release – Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Utah.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder is urging states to repeal bans on felons’ voting.
  • Kentucky Senator Rand Paul supports restoring voting rights for convicted felons who have completed their sentences in Kentucky.
  • The right to vote forms the core of American democracy. A strong, vibrant democracy requires the broadest possible base of voter participation.
  • Felony disenfranchisement laws are firmly rooted in the Jim Crow era and were intended to bar minorities from voting. The intended effects of these laws continue today: nationwide 2 million African Americans are disenfranchised.
  •  Allowing people to vote after release from prison encourages participation in civil life and helps rebuild ties to the community that motivate law-abiding behavior.
  • Restoring voting rights to people out of prison eliminates the opportunity for erroneous purges of eligible citizens form the voting rolls and relieves confusion among election officials and the public about who is eligible to vote.

Propose a resolution on voting restoration at your precinct caucus

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Precinct caucuses are February 4 across the state. You can visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website to find out where your precinct caucus is.

During precinct caucuses individuals have the opportunity to bring forward resolutions about issues they care about, use this opportunity to see if your caucus would support a resolution in support of rights restoration. Bring in copies of our sample Voting Restoration Caucus Resolution to your caucus.

Here is the full text of our resolution:

2014 Caucus Resolution
Restoring the Right to Vote

Whereas, approximately 63,000 Minnesotans are denied the right to vote under Minnesota law due to a past felony conviction and 75% of those individuals are living in the community;

Whereas, since 1974, the percentage of voting age Minnesotans disenfranchised as a result of a criminal conviction has increased over 400%;

Whereas, as a result of disproportionate conviction rates, disenfranchisement overwhelmingly affects communities of color – African-Americans make up roughly five percent of the Minnesota population and represent over a quarter of the total number of those disenfranchised and American Indians, less than two percent of the population, account for more than six percent of those individuals who are disenfranchised;

Whereas, involvement in civic life logically results in stronger ties to the community, and research has shown that persons with past criminal convictions are less likely to be arrested again in states that restore voting rights after release from incarceration;

Whereas, a policy that permits all individuals who have served their time in jail or prison to vote reduces confusion among voters and election officials about who can vote, thereby easing election administration and reducing government costs; and

Whereas, thirteen states already disenfranchise only those persons who are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction, not those on probation or parole.

Therefore, be it resolved that the _____________ Party supports restoring voting rights to Minnesotans convicted of a felony while they are on probation or parole.

If you have any question about how this works or about our resolution you can contact Mark Haase, 612-353-3035, or contact@restorethevotemn.org