On probation or parole? You may now cast a ballot in Minnesota

[anvplayer video=”5167782″ station=”998130″]

On March 3rd, Governor Tim Walz signed HF 28 into law, restoring the right to vote to 55,000 people on probation and parole. A move the administration is calling “the largest expansion of voting rights in Minnesota in half a century.”

“The big change here is that there are a bunch of people who are out in the community that aren’t able to engage with the civic process,” said Jason Beckman, Program Director at SOAR Career Opportunities. “So this bill is going to allow them to take action with the rest of the community, and the rest of their neighbors when it comes to voting time.”

SOAR is a Duluth organization which offers mentoring, case management, employment services, and support to address barriers impacting the successful transition back into the community for current, or recently incarcerated people who are transitioning back to the community from incarceration.

“We have people working with us that have five years, 10 years, 15 years or life. A lifetime of being on probation,” said Beckman. “And so you’re out in the community and you don’t have any say. So there’s a school referendum, and you’d like your kids to go to a better school. You don’t have the option to put your name in the hat for that.”

According to Beckman, helping people “feel less like the other,” or more like a part of the community can have a real, and a positive effect.

“Being released from prison is like having no dignity whatsoever,” said Richard Howell, Crew Manager with Community Action Duluth. “And to get my civil rights reinstated was phenomenal. To be able to vote is a phenomenal thing. It makes me more of a productive citizen and a part of the community.”

Both SOAR and Community Action Duluth are working with residents who are now eligible to vote thanks to this new bill, to get registered and ready to exercise their civic duty.