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Judge rejects suit on Minnesota law restoring felons’ voting rights

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge has dismissed a conservative group’s lawsuit challenging a new Minnesota law that restores voting rights for felons once they’ve completed their prison time.

Anoka County Judge Thomas Lehmann ruled Wednesday that the Minnesota Voters Alliance lacked the legal standing to sue and failed to prove that the Legislature overstepped its authority when it voted in February to expand voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. Before the change, they had to complete their probation before they could regain their eligibility to vote.

Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. (David Joles /Star Tribune via AP)

The alliance argued that the law violates a clause in the state constitution that says felons cannot vote “unless restored to civil rights.” The group argued that the language means all their civil rights, not just some.

“The major premise of this argument is fundamentally flawed,” the judge wrote, saying the constitution does not specify “restored to all civil rights.” He cited a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling from February that put the burden on the Legislature to decide whether voting rights should be restored when people leave prison.

Minnesota was among more than a dozen states that considered restoring voting rights for felons this year. Advocates for the change argued that disenfranchising them disproportionately affects people of color because of biases in the legal system. An estimated 55,000 Minnesotans regained the right to vote because of the change.


A lawyer for the Minnesota Voters Alliance, James Dickey, said the group plans to appeal. It hopes to do so directly to the state Supreme Court.

Attorney General Keith Ellison said he was “extremely pleased that yet another effort to undermine the voting rights of Minnesotans has been soundly rejected.”

The Minnesota Court of Appeals last month rejected a different attempt to void the law along similar grounds, ruling that a lower court judge overstepped his authority when he declared the law unconstitutional.

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