Post by Maureen Fischer, MaureenInk Communications, Twitter: @ MaureenFischer, www.MaureenInk.com
Note: Social Media Consultant Maureen Fischer contributed hundreds of hours of her time to Amicus in launching this blog and integrating it with our other social media. Thanks Maureen! You’ve made “Inside Change” something we can all be proud of. You’re always an Amicus in our eyes!
This afternoon, Governor-Elect Dayton made his first public comments as winner of the race against Tom Emmer. Despite the cost and delay of the contested election, the situation points out the importance of every single vote. The same was true, only more so, during the recount for the U.S. Senate race won by a hair by Al Franken.
Voting in this state matters. Whether you burn with conviction about a candidate or just want to be a good citizen, it can also be a great satisfaction. Yet nationally, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are banned from voting, many of them ex-offenders.
The legal ability of people with felony convictions to vote varies from state to state. ProCon.org explains the laws in each state in detail. The highlights:
- Twelve states fall into the harshest category–banning felons from voting ever, even after release from prison, parole and probation
- Eighteen more states take a less severe stance; Minnesota is among them. Here, felons vote only upon completion of all supervised release, which includes parole, probation and the paying of all fines.
- Thirteen states plus Washington DC are more lenient: allowing felons to vote upon release from prison.
- Two states, Maine and Vermont, allow them to vote from prison.
The following stats from The Second Chance Coalition add more insight to the voting laws here in Minnesota:
Over 60,000 Minnesotans live in the community with felony convictions; since 1974, the number of community members disenfranchised has increased 500%
Minnesota has the fourth highest number of individuals per capita who are on probation or parole
Current policy in Minnesota disenfranchises 1 in 5 African American men of voting age
We all know voting is symbolic of our freedom as a citizen of a democratic society: it makes us feel valued and empowered. Research has proven that parolees and probationers who exercise their right to vote are less likely to end up back in prison.
Please let us know your thoughts on the issue. Are Minnesota’s voting laws fair? Or should they be changed to allow more ex-offenders to vote sooner?
For more information on the issue, visit The Second Chance Coalition website.