Voter Registration Pop-Up Helps Ex-Offenders Exercise Their Right

DULUTH, Minn. – It’s National Voter Registration Day and pop-up registration events across Duluth are helping ex-offenders qualify to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

It is common for many former felons to be unaware of their legal status to vote in elections.

Rules do vary from state to state, but in Minnesota, ex-offenders are entitled to participate once they have finished all parts of their sentence including any probation or supervised release.

Many believe allowing people with convictions the opportunity to vote can help promote change.

“Many of the reasons people end up behind bars has to do with social situations. It has to do with poverty, drug addiction, mental health issues, or physical health issues,’ said Sixth Judical District’s Assistant Public Defender Veronica Surges.

“All of those issues are political. If people can get involved in politics who have experienced those issues they can help change the way our country handles these issues,” Surges continues.

In some states like florida, those convicted of a felony have to pay off their fines before being able to vote.

This alone adds an extra barrier for many individuals including people of color.

The former president for the League of Women Voters believes it’s important to push for all voices to be heard.

“If you don’t vote then you are letting somebody else make decisions for you. I think it is really important for us to hear from everybody because we all have different experiences. We need to hear from everybody and voting is one way you can do it,” said Mary Streufert.

Anyone now serving a felony sentence is still ineligible to vote in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

If you are unclear of your legal status it is recommended to consult an attorney for advice.

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