A Dayton-appointed task force on Tuesday recommended the state re-examine whether Minnesota should allow felons to vote once they are out of prison.
The task force, which includes the new chairs of the Minnesota House and Senate elections committees as well as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, told Gov. Mark Dayton that it was "somewhat divided" about the issue. Rather than endorsing that idea, the task force said the state should "find long-term election integrity solutions in connection with Minnesota election law regarding felon disenfranchisement."
Currently, Minnesotans who are convicted of felonies lose their voting rights until they have completed their sentences. That means they could be out of prison on probation or on parole and not be allowed to vote.
The idea of letting felons vote once they leave prison, as North Dakota allows, is a controversial one. Law enforcement opposes it, according to the task force, but some believe it would allow ex-felons to more quickly reintegrate into society. Minnesota's current system creates confusion, say some, and the opportunity for fraud, say others.
Hopkins DFLer Simon, the chair of the House elections committee, said he is "very skeptical" about the idea of letting non-incarcerated felons vote. He cited both policy and political reasons for his doubts.
He also noted that Dayton has said repeatedly that he would not sign any election bills that lack bipartisan support and "I don’t know if a single Republican would vote for" a liberalization of the rules on felons voting.
Given that, his own doubts and the series of policy questions he has about changing the law, he said: "I think it’s next to impossible for it to pass."
Katharine Tinucci, Dayton's spokeswoman, said the governor had not reviewed the report by Tuesday and has not previously staked out a position on felon voting.
Updated with comments from Simon and Tinucci.
Read the full task force report here: