Senate passes felon voting rights, driver’s license bills, both headed to governor

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A bill that would restore the voting rights of felons who are not incarcerated has passed its last hurdle in the Minnesota Legislature and now heads to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk.

The Senate passed House File 28, also known as the Restore the Vote Act, on Tuesday night by a 35-30 vote. It passed the House 71-59 earlier this month.

“With the passage of this historic legislation, Minnesota is taking an important step forward in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and democracy,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “By rejecting the racist origins of felony disenfranchisement and affirming the importance of accessible and inclusive elections, the state is setting a powerful example for the nation.”

If Walz signs the bill, Minnesota will join 21 other states that automatically restore voting rights once citizens are released from incarceration.

Shortly after passing the felon voting bill, the Senate took up a bill known as the “Driver’s License for All” bill that would all undocumented immigrants to obtain Minnesota driver’s licenses.

“Just outside this chamber there are hundreds of immigrants whose lives will be completely transformed by this bill,” said bill author, Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, DFL-Minneapolis. “They’ll be able to drive to work. They’ll be able to take their kids to school. They can drive their kids to the playground and live their lives with dignity.”

The ability for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Minnesota was revoked in 2003 in the aftermath of 9/11 when several of the hijackers were found to have driver’s licenses and state ID’s from other states. Republicans say they still have concerns about everything from national security to fraud.

“A lot of people have called this the ‘fraud for all bill’ because it opens itself up to so much fraud with documentation,” said Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault.

Despite opposition from all Republicans, DFL senators passed the bill with 34 votes. The DFL controls the Senate 34-33.

Both the felon voting rights bill and the driver’s license bill passed earlier in the Minnesota House. Governor Walz has indicated he will also sign the driver’s license bill.

Follow the progress of other notable bills with our Legislative Tracker.