The Right to Vote
Since 1919, LWV Minnesota has been advocating for voting rights for all citizens. This is the heart of our mission; to ensure that all eligible voters have easy access to the polls and that all elections are fair.
Ensuring that every eligible citizen is able to exercise their right to vote is a priority for LWV Minnesota. Our agenda for voting rights includes:
- Restoring voting rights to those living in our communities with past felony convictions
- Supporting the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015
- Establishing early voting in Minnesota
- Pre-registering 16 & 17-year-olds
- Opposing photo ID requirements for all voters
- Modernizing our voter registration system
Restoring Voting Rights to Those Living in Our Communities with Past Felony Convictions
- Currently 47,000 Minnesotans are not able to vote because of a past felony conviction, yet live in our communities, hold jobs and pay taxes.
- The number of individuals disenfranchised has increased 400% since 1974, partly due to Minnesota's high ranking in the number of individuals per capita who are under community supervision (parole or probation).
- Although felon disenfranchisement affects all communities in Minnesota, the policy has a disproportionate impact on communities of color because of their disproportionate rate of incarceration.
- Restoring voting rights for parolees and probationers builds community ties.
- Restoration of these voting rights would simplify our election administration. The moment one leaves prison, it would be understood rights would be immediately restored.
Have you committed a felony in the past and wondering if you can vote today?
People with a past felony conviction can vote after they finish their entire sentence, including probation or parole. This is commonly known as being ‘off-paper.’ It is a felony to vote or register to vote before completing the entire felony sentence. Click here for details on eligibility.
Those who finish their sentence will automatically have their right to vote restored (but may not receive notification). They must register before they vote.
Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015
In 2013, the US Supreme Court overturned Shelby County vs. Holder, a decision that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Shelby County decision created a vacuum in which half the states passed significant voter suppression laws that disproportionately created barriers to minorities, the elderly and the youth from voting. Creating unfair laws like voter identification, reducing or eliminating available polling places, reducing multilingual voting materials and partsian gerrymandering, all contribute to disenfranchising millions of Americans. This proposed legislation would not only repair the significant damage created by the Shelby Case, but strengthen the oversight to potential discriminatory practices.
Early voting allows voters the opportunity to cast their ballot in person prior to Election Day on the same voting equipment as those used on Election Day. Currently 33 states have some form of early voting. In 2014, Minnesota enacted no-excuse absentee voting. While this extended voters' ability to cast their votes early, their ballot was still considered an absentee ballot and was not counted immediately. More paperwork is required to process an absentee ballot and therefore the cost of processing that ballot costs more than if it were counted early.
LWV Minnesota supports moving to a system whereby two weeks prior to Election Day, voters would be able to show up in person to cast their ballot and have it counted the moment it is received. We believe this provides the greatest convenience to citizens, would help many eligible voters to exercise their right to vote and is a step forward for voting rights.
In Minnesota, a registered voter can vote one of two ways: either with a no-excuse absentee ballot or in person at a polling place on Election Day. There are distinct differences between the two.
The benefits of early voting are that it takes less administrative time and paperwork for the counties and the voter than no-excuse absentee voting. Voters don't have to file for an absentee ballot. If a mistake is made on the absentee ballot, it takes time and money to return the ballot for correction. Early voting uses the same methods and ballots used on Election Day voting. If a mistake is made on the ballot, it is corrected on-site. Ballots are immediately entered into the ballot counter.
Twenty-one states utilize traditional early voting, any qualified voter can cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. Twelve other states (including Minnesota) allow a voter to apply for an absentee ballot in a certain period of time before Election Day, but the ballot is handled as an absentee ballot and is not immediately counted.
Pre-registration for 16 and 17 Year-olds
2015 saw the first initiative to pass pre-registration of 16 & 17 year olds. If passed, Minnesota would become the 8th state to implement pre-registration. Currently, 16 year olds can pre-register to vote in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia.
- In 2008, fewer than half of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 registered, a rate 22% lower than in the general population (Project Vote). Voter turnout is especially low in low-income communities and communities of color.
- A forthcoming study found that, in states that have implemented pre-registration, youth voter turnout is 13% higher (“Making Young Voters,” American Journal of Political Science). This is true of both Republican and Democrat voters – voter pre-registration is politically unbiased and boosts young voter turnout for all parties and communities.
- Data shows that citizens who are engaged in the political process when they are young are more likely to vote later in life (“Becoming a Habitual Voter,” American Political Science Review). By allowing young people to pre-register at 16, voter registration could be integrated into existing high school civics curriculum, increasing opportunities to develop a stronger level of engagement.
- Most systems are already capable of handling pre-registration by labeling them as ‘pending’ registrations that will automatically become ‘active’ when the registrant turns 18. The only costs Minnesota would incur by implementing pre-registration would be related to updating registration materials and minor database modifications. It is estimated that these updates could be done at little to no cost.
- Pre-registration poses absolutely no threat to the data privacy of minors. While voter registration information is part of the public record, pre-registered voters’ information, including address and phone number, would remain private until their registrations became ‘active’ on their 18th birthday.
Oppose Photo ID for All Voters
In 2012, LWV Minnesota led the way to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required Minnesota voters to possess a government-issued ID in order to cast their vote. Initially, a majority of Minnesotans indicated favoring the passage of this amendment, but through persistence, getting the facts out to the public and building a broad based coalition, the amendment was soundly defeated.
The argument posed by opponents played on people's fears about voting fraud without any evidence to back up those claims. The percentage of voter fraud in the entire United States is practically immeasurable, the number is that insignificant. The number of individuals who would have been disenfranchised had the amendment passed would have been thousands more than any involved in committing fraud.