State of Minnesota

Minnesota Felony Disenfranchisement Challenge

Schroeder v. Simon

Lawsuit filed on behalf of four individuals with prior felony convictions — all of whom have completed their required periods of incarceration and are currently “on parole, probation, or some other form of supervised release” — challenging provisions of Minnesota law that restore the right to vote to individuals with former felony convictions “only upon discharge, which is achieved by court order or upon expiration of sentence.” In their complaint against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (R), the plaintiffs assert that while the Minnesota Constitution disenfranchises those convicted of a felony until their civil rights have been restored, the challenged statutes go further by “refusing to restore the right to vote until discharge.” The plaintiffs allege that “[i]n many instances, Minnesota citizens who have been convicted of a felony never see the inside of a prison, but are placed on extremely long periods of probation or supervised release that can last for decades. Consequently, these citizens…participate in Minnesota communities for years while being denied the right to vote.” The plaintiffs contend that under the state’s felony disenfranchisement and rights restoration scheme, 52,336 Minnesota citizens — the majority of whom are people of color and indigenous people — are denied the right to vote in violation of the state constitution. They also claim that “[n]o legitimate government interest supports disenfranchising citizens who are living in the community and denying them the right to vote until the community-supervision elements of their sentence have been completed.” The plaintiffs maintain that in addition to violating the “right to equal protection, the right to due process, and the fundamental right to vote,” the state’s system of voting rights restoration “must be invalidated to immediately restore the right to vote to people convicted of felonies who have been released or excused from incarceration.” 

On Aug. 11, 2020, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit. On Sept. 30, 2020, the plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals; on Dec. 4, 2020, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. Then, on June 22, 2021, the plaintiffs asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision.

On Aug. 10, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court granted the petition and agreed to hear the appeal. Oral argument was held on Nov. 30, 2021. On Feb. 15, 2023, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the state’s felony disenfranchisement law for people on probation, parole or supervised release does not violate the Minnesota Constitution.

Case Documents (Trial court)

Case Documents (Mn court of appeals)

Case Documents (MN supreme court)

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