Rep. Frazier on Felon Voter Lawsuit: ‘Surprised It Took So Long’
A new law that restores voting rights to convicted felons who are on probation or parole is now being challenged in court.
Prior to this year, convicted felons released from prison were not allowed to vote if they were still on probation or parole. When the legislature passed the bill last session, an estimated 55,000 Minnesotans had their voting rights restored.
However, the group Minnesota Voters Alliance argues in a lawsuit that the state Constitution doesn’t give the legislature the authority to restore the vote. In their view, felons need to complete their entire sentence before they can regain voting rights.
“UMLC [Upper Midwest Law Center] seeks to ensure Minnesota voting laws adhere to our Constitution, which makes clear that all civil rights must be restored before being legally eligible to vote. Felons on supervised release, work release or probation do not meet these requirements,” said UMLC Senior Trial Counsel James Dickey.
According to Dickey, if the legislators want to change the state constitution, they can do so by having Minnesota voters decide by way of constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, the chief author of the bill in the House, is confident the lawsuit won’t hold up.
“I’m actually surprised it took so long [for the law to be challenged in court]. Maybe they were waiting for the right moment,” Frazier said in an interview. “But it’s not surprising to me. What’s frustrating though and what’s concerning — and should be concerning to all Minnesotans — is that we have organizations like this that are pushing, pushing this lawsuit to confuse and create fear for folks. And really, I believe the ultimate outcome is to suppress the vote.”
While the lawsuit goes through the court process, Frazier says he and others will continue their efforts to get the newly-eligible voters registered.