Restore voting rights to felons

Jasper Johnson

This session, Minnesota lawmakers will be debating whether convicted felons should regain voting rights upon their release from prison. Currently, Minnesota is one of the 20 states that allow felons to vote only after they serve the entirety of their incarceration, parole and probation.

Former state Rep. Mike Benson claims that this reform is “nothing less than a political ploy by the left in the state of Minnesota to gain 40,000 more [voters].”

However, I see the potential reform as a positive development for the community. The idea of prison is to rehabilitate people and place them back into society after their sentences. It’s essential that we allow these people to participate in democracy by voting.

In my mind, people should regain the right to vote the minute they leave prison. Parole and probation are often lengthy sentences, remaining in effect long after we view the felon as a full participant in society.

Most importantly, I view restrictions on felon voting rights as inhibitive to progress and change. Prohibiting lawbreakers from voting relegates society to the status quo. Reform and progress cannot happen if we only allow the people who are content with the current system to speak.

On the contrary, it is disenfranchised people who most need to influence politics. An impoverished individual who sold drugs to make money to pay for food or medical costs, for example, is the exact type of person who needs to weigh in on certain societal issues.

Voting is the underpinning of the democratic society of the U.S.

Depriving felons of voting rights after they have spent their time in prison is undemocratic and unjust.