Simon’s election agenda includes felon voting

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon held a state Capitol news conference to detail his “Investing in Democracy” agenda for the 2019 legislative session. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Minnesota’s top election official will push for the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons during the 2019 legislative session.

Secretary of State Steve Simon highlighted several election-related proposals Thursday that he wants lawmakers to address in the coming months. The session begins Tuesday.

An estimated 60,000 Minnesotans are currently ineligible to vote because they are on probation or supervised release from prison, Simon said at a Capitol news conference.

“These are people who have served their time already and are working to establish or reestablish themselves in their communities,” Simon said. “Minnesotans, I think, believe in second chances.”

Under the proposal backed by Simon, convicted felons would have their voting rights restored as soon as they are released from prison.

Rob Stewart of the group Minnesota Second Chance Coalition Restore the Vote Coalition is also working to get the measure passed. Stewart, who served time for a felony drug conviction, said the restoration of his voting rights two years ago had a powerful impact.

“I really started to feel whole again,” Stewart said. “I started to feel like part of the community, and I could put my past behind me.”

Simon is also proposing the creation of an automatic voter registration system tied to interactions with government agencies. Eligible voters would be automatically registered unless they opt out.

Additionally, Simon’s agenda includes adjustments to the 2016 law establishing a presidential primary in 2020 and early authorization of the election security money lost last session when a wide-ranging budget bill was vetoed.

Simon, a Democrat, believes there is bipartisan support for his proposed election law changes.

“That’s been our tradition for the last several governors,” he said. “That’s one that we want to uphold, and I personally want to uphold in Minnesota.”

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