Minnesota returns voting power to thousands. The question is whether they’ll use it

Restored voting rights to individuals with felony records in Minnesota might face hurdles in getting put to use.

Key Policy Change: A new law quickly reinstates voting rights to individuals who are not presently incarcerated.
* Secretary of State Steve Simon is encouraging recently released individuals to exercise their right to vote.
* Voter registration forms are included in prison discharge packets, and rights are restored immediately rather than upon completion of supervised release or probation.
* Minnesota is among the latest states to restore voting eligibility for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Potential Hurdles: Despite the reform, there are doubts about whether these individuals will register to vote.
* The law potentially affects over 55,000 people in Minnesota.
* An analysis found that fewer than 25% of newly eligible voters with felony records registered to vote in the next presidential election.

Taking to the Streets: Some formerly incarcerated individuals are trying to drive up registration rates among their peers.
* Antonio Williams, who was incarcerated for 13 years and would have had to wait until 2025 for his voting rights to be restored, joined a canvas this summer in St. Paul to encourage voter registration.
* He mentioned his own excitement about being able to vote in the upcoming local elections.

Personal Story: The law and the ability to vote have had real impact on individuals.
* Former inmate Miranda Pacheco, who spent her early life grappling with abuse, addiction, and crime, and has now turned her life around, recently won a primary election for city council in Duluth.
* Pacheco cast her first vote for herself and uses her past experiences to motivate others by showing them that past mistakes can be overcome.

Ongoing Challenges: Despite progress, there are still barriers and litigation against the law.
* The law is being challenged by a conservative group over the way it was enacted, with a court hearing set for October.
* Voting participation among the affected group remains a concern due to issues like lack of targeted voter engagement and possible confusion over eligibility.

View original article on NPR

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