At 22, Lance Handy of St. Paul was convicted of a drug charge and for the next three years lost his freedom and his right to vote. Once he completed his sentence, the right was returned, because Minnesota is one of 35 states that restore voting privileges to convicted felons, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Handy’s concern now, nearly a decade later, is for the thousands of other ex-convicts across Minnesota who mistakenly believe they’ve permanently lost their voting rights because of their crimes. He works with the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice, which has launched an informational campaign to let ex-offenders know they can vote again.
Corrections officials inform offenders in writing that their civil rights are restored once their sentences are completed. “There’s a myth out there among many, many people who think they can’t vote, serve on juries or other things because they’ve been convicted of felonies,” said Pete Orput of the Minnesota Corrections Department. Council on Crime and Justice President Tom Johnson says breakdowns have occurred. His group is sending brochures and other information to agencies that deal with ex-offenders across the state. Florida, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Nebraska, don’t automatically restore voter rights once a felon has completed a sentence. Instead, a convicted felon must petition to get voting rights restored.