Election year brings new opportunity for convicted felons in Minnesota
(ABC 6 News) – Voting is a right some take for granted and as we head into this election year, a new state law is going to give a new demographic the right to vote.
It’s called the ‘Restore the Vote Act.’ Giving back the right to vote for convicted felons no longer behind bars.
“I think it’s really great. Actually, I wish it was even a little bit more progressive. You know? But. I think it’s awesome because these politicians affect all of us. it’s not just people who haven’t been convicted of a crime. Ya know?” said Jesse Campbell who was convicted of first-degree arson in 2003. He was later released from prison in 2009.
As the years went on, so did the frustrations on election days as polling numbers came in.
“It’s hard to take pride in society and a country when you can’t participate in your civic duty. Especially when you know you’re on the path of turning your life around and making things better.”
Now, things are turning around for people like Campbell with 55,000 Minnesotans now allowed to vote. The new law might seem straightforward. Well, not so much…
“If somebody wants to vote absentee. If somebody is incarcerated on the day of the election. What do we do? Honestly, I don’t think we have the answer yet to some of these questions,” explained Mark Ostrem, the Olmsted County Attorney.
Or what if it’s a reverse situation? If someone votes absentee and then goes behind bars.
“We’ve got a great election staff in Olmsted County. They’ve been working through a lot of those logistics. We’ve also got the presidential primary coming up. There’s just a lot of new things. Even though we do the elections every year, it seems like every year there’s some nuance that’s new,” added Ostrem. He also said we likely won’t know some of these answers until we get further into the year.
The law does not come without criticism. In October, the Mille Lacs County District Judge challenged the new law after he denied four convicted felons sentenced to parole, their right to vote.
“People seem to think, once a criminal always a criminal. Or they get into this mentality. We’re all just people and we’re all doing the best we can,” added Campbell.
Campbell is continuing his work to end the stigma around convicted felons. He’s helping others with his charity, Nonprofit Wrench. Free handyman services and vehicle maintenance for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.