he U.S. is the only developed democracy that strips voting rights from its people on the basis of a criminal conviction. An estimated 4.6 million Americans across the country are barred from casting ballots. Now to give a sense of scope — this number is larger than the voting-eligible population of New Jersey. At the ACLU, we believe that when we suppress the voting rights of any group of people, our democracy weakens. In order to live up the full ideal of a constitutional democracy, everyone must be given the right and access to vote.
The good news is that many states are starting to agree with us. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen states slowly improve access to those formerly or currently incarcerated and all of these movements, are victories worthy of celebration.
That’s why today, we are taking a moment to recognize a big victory in Minnesota where the state passed the Restore the Vote bill just about a month ago, giving 55,000 Minnesotans the power to cast their vote in the next local, state, or federal election after they serve their time but before they finish their parole or probation. We are joined by Jennifer Schroeder, an advocate and plaintiff in an ACLU and ACLU of Minnesota lawsuit that challenged the previous voting restriction, and Julie Ebenstein, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, to discuss how this change has a meaningful positive impact on everyone.