On Friday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a coalition of 17 attorney generals in pushing back on a Minnesota law that prevents previously incarcerated individuals — or “returning citizens” — who are living in their communities from voting until they have completed their terms of parole or probation.
In an amicus brief filed in Schroeder v. Simon, currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court, the coalition highlighted the importance of civic engagement for strengthening returning citizens’ ties to their communities and reducing the likelihood of recidivism. The coalition urged the court to reverse a lower court’s decision and restore the voting rights of those on parole or probation.
“Restoring the right to vote is good for democracy and for public safety,”said Bonta. “When we encourage civic engagement, we’re encouraging the kinds of activities that help formerly incarcerated Americans reintegrate into society. It’s past time to do away with outdated disenfranchisement laws that have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. It’s the right thing to do because it’s just, good for democracy, and safe.”
The coalition’s pursuit is an effort towards addressing the issue of disenfranchisement in the United States. An estimated 5.2 million people across the United States — 2.3% of all adults — were barred from casting a ballot in the last presidential election because of felony convictions. Of those, roughly 3.9 million are no longer incarcerated.
These laws have gained attention for disproportionately impacting communities of color. “The concern is not simply that some lose their political voices, but also that their communities as a whole face diminished voting power and lose out on opportunities to influence myriad issues that affect their daily lives,” according to a press release from Bonta’s office.
Due in part to such concerns, in 2020, California voters approved Proposition 17, a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to state residents convicted of felonies but who are on parole.
Bonta and the remaining attorney generals are arguing that state laws are the catalyst behind such disenfranchisement, as several states have joined Minnesota in targeting those on parole or probation and their communities.
Attorney General Bonta is joining the attorney generals of the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.