Robert Stewart, a doctoral student, is one of thousands who can't vote in 2014 election

Dehn_cornish.jpg
Believe it or not, state representatives Raymond Dehn (left) and Tony Cornish agree on something: giving felons the right to vote
Rob Stewart is a Ph.D. candidate at the U of M. He works. He pays taxes. But come November, while his neighbors and colleagues are casting ballots, Stewart will stay away from the polling station.

Why? Because he's a convicted felon with a serious drug offense on his record.

See also:
Wisconsin felons could be hauled to jail for voting


In Minnesota and several other states, people like Stewart do not regain the right to vote until they have completed all of the terms of their sentence, including probation and supervision, which can span decades.

State Rep. Ray Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced a bill last spring to change that by restoring a felon's right immediately after release, and has since been pushing it outside the Capitol. At a north Minneapolis block party last week, he got a warm reception when he told the crowd, "If people are working and paying taxes, the least we could do would be to give them the right to vote."

A companion bill was also introduced last session in the Senate by another North Side democrat, Bobby Champion, with support coming from the Restore the Vote Coalition, the state county attorney association, the NAACP, and others. They say felony convictions prevented 63,000 Minnesotans from voting in the 2012 election, citing the work of Christopher Uggen, a U of M sociologist and co-author of Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy.

robstewart.JPG
Rob Stewart post-prison
Uggen has become something of a national advocate as he's highlighted voting disparities among the states. Maine and Vermont allow inmates to vote while in prison. Others, including Florida, take away the right to vote for the rest of a felon's life.

The assumption is that if you commit a crime once, you're likely to do it again. However, Uggen's research suggests that voting has a psychological affect on people that might reduce the chances of recidivism. If you participate in your community, you're probably less likely to mess it up.

The public appears to be split on reform. The 2014 State Fair poll, though far from scientific, asked people whether felons should be allowed to regain "their right to vote immediately upon release from a correctional facility?" Forty-three percent of Minnesotans said yes, 47 said no, and 9 percent were undecided.

State Rep. Tony Cornish, a sponsor of Dehn's bill, anticipates the greatest opposition to come from his fellow tough-on-crime Republicans who believe some offenses, like child molestation, are so bad that the felon ought not be able to influence public policy.

Cornish is not exactly a bleeding heart -- the retired cop once wore a semi-automatic rifle pin to a gun control hearing -- yet he can empathize with a man or woman who wants to reintegrate into society. For him, restoring the right to vote is a matter of "redemption and compassion."

While incarcerated, Stewart sobered up. Starting in 2007, he served only 25 of his 100 month-sentence thanks to an early release boot-camp program, then went on to graduate from college with high honors. He's currently in the third year of a doctoral program at the U of M, where he studies the post-prison experience in the sociology department.

Stewart won't be able to vote again until his supervision ends next year. But he's already looking forward to Election Day 2016, when he'll be able to say, "I'm a regular person just like everyone else," and mean it.

-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse


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58 comments
Aaron Frederickson
Aaron Frederickson

That is the way it should be. After all, he is a felon who has been convicted of a serious crime.

Chris Hiatt
Chris Hiatt

Who cares. Voting never changed a thing. It is monopolized force plain and simple.

Timothy Werner
Timothy Werner

Don't we have more important things to worry about instead of worrying about restoring the vote for felons. What a waste of time. Seems like liberals don't care who votes they only care about winning.

Angelique McDonald
Angelique McDonald

He did the crime, he did the time, let him and all the rest move on with their lives.

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

Awesome as a felon for something stupid, I can't wait until the day I can cast my vote again!!!!

Tim Thorn
Tim Thorn

You really want to go there? Taxes is theft at gun point.

Tim Stang
Tim Stang

Im sure he paid taxes on the $ he made selling drugs too.

Teresa Morrill
Teresa Morrill

I'm pretty sure it is a victim less crime. He didn't seek anyone out to sell drugs to. They sought out him. They already used drugs. Besides incase you wereny aware they are available on the streets everywhere.

Anton Jeffery Rasmussen
Anton Jeffery Rasmussen

I'm not sure selling drugs should be considered a crime at all. In fact, I think that's the real problem here.... we're flooding our jails and prisons with people who are providing and using goods that should be legally available and regulated.

Evan Shanley
Evan Shanley

I'm not sure selling drugs should be considered a "victimless crime"...

Danny Contreras Jr
Danny Contreras Jr

He seems like a good guy. I look forward to him having his voting rights restored when he completes his sentence.

hjartatjuv
hjartatjuv

Voting is a constitutional right. I don't believe the right to vote should be taken anyway from anyone for any reason. It is our right as citizens. 

Tim Thorn
Tim Thorn

Bottom line is that once you have completed your sentence and have a proven history of good conduct and making positive life choices you should have your rights restored....all of them. This is coming from a convicted felon who has gone through hell to have his rights restored. I also know Rob and can attest to his positive life choices.

Tim Thorn
Tim Thorn

Derp....so if you commit a victimless crime you should be marked for life no matter what you have done since then? That's pretty idiotic.

Sarah Holliday
Sarah Holliday

Why shouldn't they be allowed to vote? They are affected by it just as much as people who haven't been convicted of a felony.

Charles D. Rhoden III
Charles D. Rhoden III

I think while you are incarcerated, it makes sense that you lose your right to vote but once integrated back into society, the right should be restored.

Danielle Demko
Danielle Demko

I think the point is, that we have citizens contributing to society who are denied an opinion (that matters). How long should such a mistake follow someone? Also, does denying this right help them integrate back into society after incarceration. Let people contribute and be part of the process.

Bob Alberti
Bob Alberti

Wait, these laws aren't supposed to affect WHITE people! How did THAT happen!?

Tim Stang
Tim Stang

shoulda thought about that before he sold drugs...moron

kurt124
kurt124 topcommenter

Of course its the Dumocrats who want criminals who have not completed their sentencing term to vote.

Tuff luck.  Finish and then you can vote, quit crying.

The Dumocrats of course would not mind if all prisoners got to vote. We are a nation of laws.  Follow them and you are ok to vote.    But look for the commie Dumocrat cheating machine to confuse the issue.   Not everyone has the right to vote.  Its a simple fact.     

chris2055
chris2055

He actually hasn't done the time.  The right to vote is restored once the felon has completed all the terms of their sentence (Doing the time).  Once his time is done, they he will have the right to vote again.

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

@digitalprotocol Well, it matters to the thousands of alive American soldiers who would now be dead if McCain or Romney had been voted into the Oval Office.  It matters to the millions of people in the country who, for the first time, have healthcare. It matters to the thousands of gay and lesbian couples who now have the right to marry and would probably be jailed if the Republifucks were in control long enough. The only fool here is you. 

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@kurt124 your boy tony cornish is a GOP dickhead like you...WTF are you talking abut

jgawrych
jgawrych

@kurt124 It seems like an intellectual like you should have no problems understanding simple facts.  So maybe you will understand that in "a nation of laws," they are trying to CHANGE THE LAW.  This is how democracy works in this country.


If you weren't so blatantly partisan in your response, you might be able to have a reasonable discussion as to whether voting rights should be restored sooner.  Unfortunately, you lose any credibility by the 5th word.

Onan
Onan

@kurt124 Your post is both informative and enlightening. Please, go on.

kurt124
kurt124 topcommenter

@jgawrych Great.  The guy can complete his sentence and vote.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@MNjoe soldiers die either way. healthcare does not equal health, it equals debt. Gay people and gay money are responsible for gay marriage not the DNC. 


quite teh paradox

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

@jgawrych @kurt124 Kurt124 is a homophobic, racist POS who crawls out of his hole every few months to post his trollish comments. 

kurt124
kurt124 topcommenter

@jgawrych @kurt124 Thanks.  Yeah it's partisan for sure. That said, I am not a party line GOP either. But please look into it.  The Dems are always behind this type of initiative.  Why do you think that is?   

jgawrych
jgawrych

@kurt124 @jgawrych See how it works?  This comment is reasonable.


However, your earlier comment removed your credibility.

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

@digitalprotocol @MNjoe I forgot the basic rule - never argue with an idiot. And I can see from your comments that next to Keny and Ming - you're one of the biggest idiots on here. 

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@MNjoe @jgawrych @kurt124  Never forget Joe that kurt bragged about being a delegate at the GOP convention this year.  Stupid bigots like him are the backbone of the GOP.  

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

@kurt124 Because they're always behind initiatives give more rights to people?  And Republifucks benefit from low voter and turnout and stupidity like yours. 


kurt124
kurt124 topcommenter

@jgawrych @kurt124 Appearing partisan, yes maybe.  But just replace my phrase with DFL or Democrat and lets look into it.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@MNjoe not an argument...you attacked me. Just because i take the contrarian stance and i dont fit into your box doesnt make me an idiot.


youre an idiot for believing soldiers would be any better off. or believing 'healthcare' is something great, or that DNC is responsible for gay equality.


fuck off and die joe

jgawrych
jgawrych

@kurt124 @jgawrych What is there to look into?  Modern Democrats have consistently been the party representing the rights of the under-represented. The criminal justice system  sentences minorities and the poor to harsher penalties than whites and the wealthy.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@jgawrych True to an extent. In order to be fair and balanced though, you should include the fact that modern dems are also the ones responsible for the largest racial disparity in employment ever because of their never ending push for more social welfare programs. 

deanhinnen
deanhinnen

@kurt124 Seems to me that convicted felons are not "underrepresented." Actions have consequences and losing the right to vote is a deterrent to committing crime. Kurt makes a very good point. Not only do the Democrats want convicted felons to vote, they also want illegal aliens to vote, and they don't want a voter ID requirement. All of which will have the effect of gathering more votes for Democrats and winning more elections. I don't believe in coincidences.

jgawrych
jgawrych

@mingtran @jgawrych Republicans never ending push for more war, tax cuts benefiting only the top 5%, and slashing of education funding has created the largest disparity in income equality in the history of the country, regardless of race.


Remember that if you want to REALLY be Fair & Balanced.

jgawrych
jgawrych

@deanhinnen @kurt124 Republicans only want white, male, property owners to vote.  If that sound like an unreasonable statement, then your inane comment about Democrats wanting illegal aliens to vote is even more unreasonable.


Republicans across the country are making every effort to make it harder to vote, particularly in minority and lower income areas.  Why is that?  Are they trying to suppress voters that are not part of their target demographic?



deanhinnen
deanhinnen

@jgawrych @mingtran LOL if it's Republicans who make a "never ending push for more war," why is it Obama who started a war in Libya without even consulting Congress, let alone getting Congressional approval? Even Bush didn't go that far in pushing for more war. And now Obama has sent combat troops back into Iraq. Care to explain? Isn't that a "never ending push for more war"? He only sent 350 men -- roughly the same number as the Alamo and the Little Big Horn. Draw your own conclusions.

Republicans do not want to limit the vote to white male property owners. You're talking about the Democrats in the 19th century and most of the 20th. Before they switched tactics and started trying to pretend that it's the Republicans who are the racists. Republicans want all American citizens of every color and both genders who are not criminals to vote. It's only fair to require ID to vote since it's required for everything else, including a visit to the White House and the offices of Democratic congressmen. Republicans want all immigration laws to be enforced with an even hand -- and that includes illiegal aliens from Poland and Russia, who are even more white than me.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@deanhinnen i couldn't fabricate something more nonsensical. you think because Lincoln was GOP that that means they are interested in helping minorities? You think the GOP is altruistic?


my guess is you were home schooled by your mom at some farm

jgawrych
jgawrych

@deanhinnen You crack me up!  Obviously you didn't read or were unable to comprehend my comment.


Why was it Republicans attacking Obama for not doing MORE in Libya?  They were pushing the US to lead the airstrikes and completely criticized that the US was just in a support role during the campaign.


As Commander-in-Chief, the President does not need congressional approval until the WPA kicks in at 60 days.


Bush didn't go that far?  Are you kidding me?  They made up a completely fake story about WMD to justify invading and occupying another country.  How do you not consider this pushing for more war?


Obama has sent troops into Iraq, and it is Republicans wanting him to send troops into Syria.  They are pushing for more war.  When he did ask Congress to approve military action in Syria a year ago, Congress wouldn't even address the issue.


Republicans pushing for more war is what "broke" Iraq and now Obama is trying to clean up the mess.


He has notified Congress of these troops, and it is now their job to act and take a position!


I have no idea what conclusions you want me to draw regarding the Alamo and Little Big Horn.  If I have to draw my own conclusions, I will assume that you are crazy.


Nixon's Southern Strategy wasn't Democrats pretending that the GOP is racist.


Republicans DO NOT wants all American citizens to vote.  Why else would the GOP talk about how LOW VOTER TURNOUT benefits Republican candidates?


Voter ID laws are the actual fraud.  They are intended to make it harder to vote.  You are a fool if you believe otherwise.


Visiting the White House is not a right.  Voting is a right.  Again, if you believe they are the same, you are a fool.


Republicans don't want all immigration laws enforced with an even hand.  Republicans want to militarize the border in the same way that they want to militarize local police forces.


So take your Right Wing, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michelle Bachmann talking points and shove them down your own throat.


You are a fool!

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@jgawrych No need to be so angry. You automatically lost for your unnecessary rudeness. Moreover, you'll continue to lose because you only blame the side of your supposed enemy. Not much difference between the two parties. 

Try getting your news from a variety of sources. Preferably ones without blatant bias instead of from douches like John Stewart, proven liars like CNN, and non-sourced bs like Huffpost. You may enjoy Joe Rogan's podcast, plenty of objectivity there.

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

@mingtran @jgawrych No Ming, you automatically lose for being a racist, homophobic, misogynist troll. And there's a big difference between the parties. The very fact that we're not at war and have troops on the ground in Syria and Iran is your proof. You're (as usual) just too fucking stupid to see it.

jgawrych
jgawrych

@mingtran @jgawrych

If I automatically lose for being "rude" on a forum full of nitwits, then you automatically lose for having your head in the sand.


The "both sides do it" and "no difference between the parties" line is absolute crap.  It's like saying there is no difference between a speeding and rape.


Is Jon Stewart too intellectual for you?  Is that why you call him a douche?


So list for me the sources that you use for news.  I would LOVE to be enlightened by your views of unbiased news sources.



mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@MNjoe "The very fact we're not at war and have troops on the ground in Syria and Iran is your proof"...? What does that even mean? PS-there are no US forces in Iran. At least not publicly. 

You're just so lost, you'll never get it. That's why you just need to go ahead and do it. It'll be better for everyone you come in contact with and your pain will finally abate.

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

@jgawrych You were rude before the other commenter was, he/she was simply discussing while you were berating. You started it. You're childish.


Both parties want more gov/corp control. Nowadays, corps and govs are basically the same thing as well. You just create a bigger wedge issue by blame shifting instead of targeting the FED, IRS, blatant unconstitutionality, and various monopolies SUPPORTED BY BOTH SIDES. You lose again.


Jon Stewart isn't very intellectual. He's a pandering sensationalist on Comedy Central, not a news god like you believers think. Third times a charm.


JRE Podcast, DailyMail, various "sciencey" sources as it knows no prejudice. Very rarely tv or paper. Internet is the way to go. 


Study up, we can discuss again when you're wiser.



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