Ellison, Simon decry orders by Mille Lacs County judge stripping felons of voting rights

Minnesota’s attorney general and secretary of state are denouncing orders issued by a Mille Lacs County judge that they say “fly in the face” of a law passed this year that allows felons to vote if they are not currently incarcerated.

Mille Lacs County Judge Matthew Quinn issued orders in two cases that state each defendant, “having been convicted of a felony offense, is not eligible to vote until the civil right to vote has been otherwise restored.” He also argued that the newly passed Restore the Vote Act is unconstitutional.

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Quinn attached a memo to each order that points to a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that established the Legislature has the authority to outline a process by which a felon’s right to vote can be restored. However, he argues that not being incarcerated does not amount to such a process: “Rather, it is an amorphous state of being.”

“Felons in Minnesota are prohibited from voting until restored to civil rights,” Quinn wrote. “At present, that restoration occurs with oversight, intent, and affirmative acts: upon a pardon, upon completion of probation, or upon an order of the court.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon put out a joint statement on Tuesday in response to the action, saying while the two defendants were convicted of felony offenses, they were only sentenced to probation, a condition that allows them to vote under state law.

“We believe the judge’s orders are not lawful and we will oppose them. The orders have no statewide impact, and should not create fear, uncertainty, or doubt. In Minnesota, if you are over 18, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Minnesota for at least 20 days, and not currently incarcerated, you are eligible to vote. Period. It is critically important that everyone whose rights were restored understands that they are welcome in our democracy.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon

The Restore the Vote Act has already drawn a legal challenge in Anoka County from the self-described “election integrity group” Minnesota Voters Alliance. The group argues that a felon in Minnesota cannot be restored to full rights under the state Constitution unless they serve the entirety of their sentence.