The Potluck

Walz signs bill giving people still on parole or probation right to vote

By: - March 3, 2023 12:04 pm

Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill giving Minnesotans on parole or probation the right to vote. Photo by Grace Deng / Minnesota Reformer

Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill on Friday restoring the right to vote for over 55,000 Minnesotans still on parole or probation.

“We’re a country of second chances. We’re a country of welcoming folks back in,” Walz said. “And the idea of not allowing those voices to have a say in the very governing of the communities they live in is simply unacceptable.” 

Minnesota law currently had previously allowed formerly incarcerated people to vote after finishing all of their sentence, including probation, parole or any form of supervised release. Minnesota has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country but some of the longest probationary periods of any state. 

Advocates say preventing people on parole or probation from voting disproportionately affects people of color, particularly Black Americans. 

A recent Minnesota Supreme Court case found that barring formerly incarcerated people from voting is not unconstitutional, which added urgency to legislators’ effort to change the law. 

“I am calling on Minnesotans affected by this law to make their voices heard,” said Jennifer Schroeder, a plaintiff in the Minnesota Supreme Court case who was sentenced to 40 years of probation for a drug conviction. “I’m a proud stay-at-home mom today to my now almost 2-year-old son. This fall, I’m taking my little boy to the voting booth.” 

Schroeder named her son Chance: “for second chances.”

Restoring the right to vote is part of a nationwide push by Democrats to expand voting rights, as GOP-controlled states across the country have sought to restrict voting by eliminating ballot drop boxes and shortening early voting periods. 

In both the House and Senate chambers, Republicans attempted to pass amendments to restrict people with certain felony records from voting and to require people to pay any outstanding fees or fines related to their incarceration before regaining voting rights. None of the amendments passed: DFL lawmakers pointed to studies that show people are less likely to reoffend if they are involved in civic activities like voting. 

Minnesota joins 21 states in restoring voting rights automatically upon release. Two states and the District of Columbia allow people still incarcerated to vote. Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, said conversations will continue about potentially allowing incarcerated people to vote in Minnesota. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng was a reporting intern with the Minnesota Reformer. They studied legal studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. The Seattle native has previously been a statehouse intern with USA TODAY Network Ohio and an editorial fellow with Washingtonian Magazine.