From today’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The Rev. Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis visited the state Capitol last week to urge restoration of voting rights to former felons immediately on their release from prison or jail.
It’s a personal cause for Herron. In 2001, he abruptly resigned from his seat on the Minneapolis City Council, pleaded guilty to extortion and went to federal prison for more than a year. The fall was sudden for the council member who seemed to know everyone in his south-central Minneapolis ward.
“It was the most painful thing for me to not be able to vote,” Herron said.
He said it wasn’t until two years after his release that he was off probation, paid his fines and allowed back to the polls.
That process, outlined by current state law, can last years if not decades.
The DFL majorities in the House and Senate back legislation to eliminate the wait. The House passed the bill 71-59 last week. Its companion bill, sponsored by Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, is expected to pass soon. Gov. Tim Walz supports the move.
Supporters say that disenfranchising roughly 50,000 felons on parole or probation violates the core U.S. principle of no taxation without representation. They argue that many of the formerly incarcerated hold jobs, pay taxes and want to be involved in their communities.
Republicans overwhelmingly dislike the proposal, arguing that those who commit crimes, especially felonies, must face penalties.
“It matters to me. It matters to my family,” said Zeke Caligiuri, a Minneapolis resident who spent 22 years in prison and now works in community outreach. He described the formerly incarcerated as “the people who do the blue-collar work.”
Read the complete story here.