Today, in Anoka County District Court, Judge Thomas R. Lehmann issued an order upholding Minnesota’s new felon voting law and denying the petition for a writ of quo warranto sought by the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC), on behalf of Petitioners Minnesota Voters Alliance, Mary Amlaw, Ken Wendling, and Tim Kirk. The Petitioners intend to immediately appeal this decision and seek accelerated review by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The petitioners argue that the new statute exceeds the authority granted to the state legislature under the Minnesota State Constitution because the Minnesota Constitution, Article VII, Section 1, forbids individuals convicted of a felony from voting “unless restored to civil rights.” The Petitioners also argue that a person still serving a felony sentence and unable to hold public office or serve on a jury, among other rights, has not been restored to civil rights.
The Anoka County District Court disagreed and held that the Legislature had the authority under the Minnesota Constitution to restore the singular right to vote to felons still under sentence because the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Schroeder v. Simon said that the legislature could pass a “legislative act that generally restores the right to vote upon the occurrence of certain events.” The constitutional language, however, says that voting rights are lost upon felony conviction. In contrast, under the Anoka County Court’s interpretation, a person convicted of a felony might never lose their voting rights at all.
“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision, but we intend to appeal as soon as possible and seek accelerated review from the Minnesota Supreme Court,” said UMLC Senior Counsel James Dickey. “We think this is an important issue of constitutional interpretation, and the people of Minnesota deserve to know what their Constitution means before the 2024 election.”
“We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and we will seek review in the appellate courts,” said Andy Cilek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance. “We believe that for a felon to regain voting rights, the Constitution requires restoration of the civil rights a felon loses upon conviction, and only a constitutional amendment can change that. We are hopeful that the appeals courts will agree.”