Judge dismisses challenge to Minnesota law that allows some felons to vote

An Anoka County judge has thrown out a lawsuit that sought to challenge a state law that grants voting rights to felons who are not currently incarcerated.

Court records show Anoka County District Judge Thomas Lehmann dismissed the challenge from Minnesota Voters Alliance on Wednesday.

The self-described “election integrity” group claimed the Restore the Vote Act that Gov. Tim Walz signed into law earlier this year violates language in the state Constitution that states felons cannot vote “unless restored to civil rights.” They interpreted that line to mean “all civil rights that a non-felon possesses.”

In his order, however, Lehmann wrote that the Legislature followed the correct constitutional process to restore voting rights and called the basis of the petitioners’ lawsuit “fundamentally flawed.”

“Contrary to Petitioners’ argument, Article VII, section 1, does not say ‘restored to all civil rights.’ Instead, it says ‘restored to civil rights,'” Lehmann wrote. “Basic principles of constitutional interpretation require courts to presume that the framers of our Constitution chose language deliberately and used it precisely.”

Lehmann dismissed the filing with prejudice, which means the claim cannot be filed again in Anoka County.

Andy Cilek, executive director of Minnesota Voters Alliance, said the group plans to appeal the ruling.

“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,” Cilek said.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon issued the following statement:

“With voting starting in the presidential primary on January 19, it is critically important Minnesotans understand their rights. I am grateful for the clarity this decision provides to the more than 55,000 Minnesotans who had their right to vote restored under this legislation. Once again, the law remains that if you are not currently incarcerated – a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and a resident of Minnesota for 20 days – you can vote.”