Right to vote for ex-felons needed

It’s time to give back rights to those who’ve paid their debts.

One Minnesota lawmaker, Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, plans to reintroduce a bill to the Legislature this session that would return voting rights to people with a felony on their record once they’ve served their time in prison, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.

At the forefront of a statewide push to return voting rights to ex-felons is a University of Minnesota graduate student, Robert Stewart.

He hasn’t been able to vote since 2006. Stewart’s inability to vote for his beliefs hasn’t stopped him from fighting for his rights, however. Instead, he’s turned to advocacy, which is the only way he can make a case to restore his ability to vote.

We strongly back the efforts of Stewart and others to return voting rights to those who have, in the eyes of the law, completed their punishments.

Our society and justice system need to be welcoming of people with criminal records when they return to society out of prison. It appears that Minnesota is taking steps in the right direction, as a bill to give ex-felons voting rights gained some ground at the Capitol last session. Moreover, the state has passed the “Ban the Box” law, preventing employers from asking on initial job applications whether applicants have criminal records.

Still, there’s much work to be done. We hope that lawmakers rally around Dehn’s voting rights bill this session to make another positive step toward giving equality to all.