Minnesota felon voting rights not decided by Supreme Court as 2022 ends

The final opinions from the Minnesota Supreme Court for 2022 have been published, and more than a year after hearing oral arguments a decision on a highly anticipated case regarding the voting rights of convicted felons has not been reached yet.

The legal cases center around restoring the right to vote for people convicted of felonies who’ve served their jail sentences, as more than 50,000 Minnesotans with active felony records await the decision.

The challenge invokes a constitutional argument that requires felons to complete time in custody, and be on supervised release or on probation before they can vote again. Proponents of the lawsuit want voting eligibility to automatically be restored upon release from incarceration.

Previously, FOX 9 interviewed Mitchell-Hamline University law professor David Schultz, who said it is highly unusual that it is taking the court this long.

"Generally the court likes to clear out all its cases from one term before it goes into another, so this is highly unusual," Schultz told FOX 9 in November. 

Schultz said while the justices can take as long as they’d like, the Minnesota Supreme Court generally hands down a decision within six months.

He believes the delay could have to do with their desire for the Legislature to decide the issue, something that could be affected by the DFL taking control of both the House and Senate last election

"My suspicion is that it's somewhere between just outright division and reluctance to want to tackle this issue - hoping the Legislature and governor will do it instead," Schultz said.

Legislative action is exactly how the Secretary of State’s Office has previously argued the issue should be tackled, saying changing the law is beyond the court’s authority.

"The legal position we’re taking here is that, no, unless the legislature acts folks in that position can’t vote," said Secretary of State Steve Simon.

While Simon personally would like to see voting rights restored for felons who have been released from prison, in his official capacity he cites the Minnesota constitution in arguing that this is not for the courts to decide.

"Our office’s stance is that the language is clear," he said. "The Legislature is the proper place."