One year later, still no court decision on felon voting

One year after hearing oral arguments, the Minnesota Supreme Court has yet to reach a decision on a highly anticipated case regarding voting rights of convicted felons.

Mitchell-Hamline University law professor David Schultz says 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," said Schultz.

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.

"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," said Schultz.

Legislative action is exactly how the Secretary of State’s Office has 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."

In a statement, the ACLU-MN which represents the plaintiff said:

"The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right that our clients are eager to exercise. We remain hopeful that after the Minnesota Supreme Court has thoroughly reviewed the merits of the case, it will strike down the state’s current disenfranchisement scheme - which disproportionately harms people of color - and allow our clients and thousands of other Minnesotans to vote who are living in the community with a felony conviction."