Simon Says Felons Likely Won’t Be Voting Anytime Soon
He said the governor’s insistence on bipartisan support for any election laws would kill a proposal to let felons vote before they’ve finished serving their sentences.
Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-District 46) doesn’t see much future over the next two years for a proposal to let some felons vote before they've finished serving their sentences.
During a Monday interview on Minnesota Public Radio’s Daily Circuit, he gave the proposal between a zero and 5 percent chance of passage. Simon, whose district includes Hopkins and St. Louis Park, noted that Gov. Mark Dayton has said bills covering election processes and procedures must have support from DFLers and Republicans for him to sign the proposals into law.
“I don’t know of a single Republican—not one—that would support this,” said Simon, who’s chairman of the House’s Elections Committee. “So I say to the advocates: ‘I’m glad that they’re providing awareness for this. I know it’s an important priority with a lot of folks. But as a chair, I have to spend my time on the doable and what’s possible this year, and I just don’t see it.’”
To listen to the interview, click on the embedded player above. You can also download the Daily Circuit podcast on iTunes.
Under current law, convicted felons can only vote after they’ve served their entire sentences—including probation and parole. A task force recommended last month that the state reconsider allowing felons to vote once they’re out of prison, although it stopped short of endorsing the idea.
For his part, Simon took a down-the-middle approach to the proposal. He said there’s some merit to the argument that voting rights would help integrate felons into the community and simplify the administration of Minnesota’s voting system. But he also agreed that there’s merit in a critic’s comment that loss of rights is a punishment for misdeeds.
He said the proposal would have to be studied to determine which felons, if any, would be allowed to vote earlier. And he added that even his some of his DFL colleagues are skeptical—in part because of the political fallout from loosening rules for felons.
“I think over the coming months—and probably years—it needs to be fleshed out some more to get beyond a concept and to get to real, workable legislation—and that means a lot of nuance and detail,” Simon said.
Do you think felons should be allowed to vote before they’ve finished serving their sentences? If so, which offenses do you think early voting should be allowed for? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section.