Give felons the right to vote
Since I graduated from college a couple of years ago, I haven’t been very political with my columns that I write.
I saw something recently though that really caught my attention, and something that I think is important to point out to our readers.
Steve Simon, our Secretary of State, put out a press release stating that he is seeking that felons who are no longer in prison have the right to vote once again.
I am in total agreement.
It doesn’t take long to find local, productive members of our community who have been affected for many years by the strict laws in Minnesota, which state that anyone who is currently on felony probation or parole doesn’t have the right to vote.
During the election season, I had the chance to write a story about a husband and wife who got to vote for the first time in their lives after being deemed ineligible for over 20 years due to being a felon and on probation.
When they casted their votes forever the first time they were extremely proud, and I am sure to this day are very proud.
Since moving to Minnesota, I have also seen many other examples of this where good hard working people are unable to vote because of non-violent mistakes they have made.
Another example that I point to is a veteran who was in Iraq, on the battle ground, fighting for our freedom, during the first wave of soldiers that were sent over.
After many years of fighting for our freedom so we can have different rights like voting, he became permanently disabled.
When he came back from fighting during what many people will agree on, as a war like no other for many reasons, he began to suffer from mental health issues, including PTSD.
When he first came home there wasn’t much being offered for him in terms of mental health services, and he turned to drugs and other bad decisions to cope with what he had seen overseas.
Since his time of returning, he has been convicted of a couple of non-violent felonies and hasn’t had the right to vote.
He will be the first one to admit that he made mistakes when first returned from the battlefield but since has gotten help that he desperately needed to live the bes life he can. Just like many others have done since they returned from a war that would mess with anyone's mental state of mind.
I think that it is sad that in a country where people make sacrifices to defend our rights, can have their rights taken away sometimes for 20-30 years.
I believe Secretary Simon has it right by saying: “We have a law that says a person is safe enough to live in our community, but still too dangerous to be a voter. That’s ridiculous. Shutting out those who have already done their time does not make us safer. Investing in democracy means investing in Minnesotans working to rebuild their lives to ensure they have a voice in their community.”
The last part of the quote above really is what I advocate for.
I believe as a citizen of any community, people have an obligation to at the very least be aware of what is going on with their local government.
I go a step further often and say that people should also vote in every election if they have the chance to.
But for over 60,000 Minnesotans, they don’t have that chance every year because they are tainted with terms like felony probation, and felony parole.
As someone who traveled the country covering politics during one of the most historic elections in recent memory, I have seen how important it is for people to be civically engaged in what's going on.
I am in agreement with Secretary Simon in the fact that anyone who isn’t currently incarcerated should have the right to vote.
By allowing those who are on probation or parole to vote, it will allow the vast majority of our citizens in Minnesota the chance to exercise their freedom to vote.
And for some, like an example I mentioned above, it will allow them to use the rights that they proudly defended for many years.