Restoring the right to vote for ex-offenders living in the community maximizes their ability to contribute to society.
Minnesota denies the right to vote for anyone convicted of a felony and is on probation, supervised release (parole) or is incarcerated.
Over 60,000 Minnesotans would be re-enfranchised by allowing parolees and probationers to vote. Since 1974, the number of individuals disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction has increased 500%, making Minnesota the fourth highest in the number of individuals per capita who are under community supervision (probation or supervised release). The result is that the majority of individuals currently disenfranchised have never spent time in prison, and 87% of the state's 70,000 disenfranchised live in the community, hold jobs, and pay taxes.
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In 2007, the number of individuals disenfranchised as a result of felony conviction was 1.7 percent of the state’s total voting-age population, but 10 percent of African Americans and 6.5 percent of American Indians of voting age were disenfranchised. Almost 17 percent (nearly 1 in 5) of otherwise eligible voting-age African American males in Minnesota were disenfranchised in 2007. The disproportionate rate of disenfranchisement among African American men reflects their disproportionate rate of incarceration. Felon disenfranchisement is an issue that impacts all communities in Minnesota. Individuals who identify as Caucasian comprise almost 70 percent of the convicted felon population.
Voting can be a powerful concrete and symbolic way to contribute to the community and a means for ex-offenders to feel valued and, therefore more empowered to take a positive and active role. Research has found that probationers and parolees who exercise their right to vote are less likely to recidivate. By highlighting the desire of felons in the community to vote and participate positively, and educating the public about the many felons who live and already positively participate in our communities, a voting rights campaign will help to reduce this general stigma.
Nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote in federal elections because of state laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions. 1.4 million African American men, or 13 percent of the black adult male population, are disenfranchised, reflecting a rate of disenfranchisement that is seven times the national average. More than one-third (36 percent) of the total disenfranchised population are black men. Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men will be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime.
Connecticut’s repeal of its ban on voting for persons on probation extended the right to vote to more than 33,000 residents. Rhode Island’s repeal of a state prohibition against voting for persons on probation and parole resulted in the restoration of voting rights to more than 15,000 residents.