UMLC Seeks Accelerated Review of Felon Voting Decision in Minnesota Supreme Court

The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) and Petitioners Minnesota Voters Alliance, Mary Amlaw, Ken Wendling, and Tim Kirk have petitioned to the Minnesota Supreme Court to take accelerated review of the Anoka County District Court’s December 13 decision upholding the Felon Voting Law. The Petitioners filed the appeal on December 20 and then asked the Supreme Court to immediately review it today, December 22, 2023. 

The Petitioners argue that the “normal appellate procedure, even if expedited in the court of appeals, would continue the uncertainty created by the Felon Voting Law possibly into the primary season or beyond,” so they seek “immediate determination” by the state Supreme Court. 

The Petitioners argue that in the recent Schroeder v. Simon decision, the Supreme Court plainly limited itself to resolving “whether Article VII, Section 1, requires that persons convicted of a felony be restored to the right to vote upon being released or excused from incarceration.” The answer was “no,” so the old law was constitutional. 

Petitioners argue that the Court could not have decided whether the new law is constitutional because it had not yet been passed. And the Court already held in Schroeder that a view similar to Petitioners’ is reasonable: “one way to interpret the framers’ understanding of the phase ‘unless restored to civil rights’ is that restoration occurs upon the completion of the sentence.” Schroeder, 985 N.W.2d at 544. But, the question remains, is this the correct interpretation under the canons of construction? Petitioners argue that this is a crucial question for Minnesotans that merits accelerated review.

“Our founders wrote in the Minnesota Constitution that the governor or legislature can enable voting for convicted felons by restoring the civil rights they lost when sentenced,” said UMLC Senior Counsel James Dickey. “To comply with the Constitution, that’s what the legislature must do. The Felon Voting Law failed to do that. We think this is an important issue of constitutional interpretation, and the people of Minnesota deserve to know what the Constitution means before the 2024 election.”

“We believe this issue should be resolved as soon as possible to create absolute clarity for the people of Minnesota before the 2024 election,” said Andy Cilek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Voters Alliance. “It’s essential that our legislature stays within its constitutional limits, which they haven’t done here. We hope the Court will take this case and resolve this question for good.” 

Read the Petition for Accelerated Review.

Read the Addendum with the lower court’s decisions.

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