Minnesota has a proud reputation as a leader in the nation in voter participation.  But Minnesota also has one of the worst racial disparities in voting in the country.  We are writing to urge you to strengthen our state’s democracy by supporting Restore the Vote legislation (S.F. 878, H.F. 342).

Over 47,000 people are barred from democratic participation every Election Day in Minnesota, because they are on probation or parole.  While the majority of these citizens are White, African Americans are disproportionately affected due to over-representation in the Justice System.  According to 2010 U.S. Census, African Americans were 10 times more likely than Whites to be imprisoned in Minnesota.  These individuals – everyday people who work and pay taxes – have taken responsibility for their past actions, and are seeking to move on with their lives.  Yet, they are systematically barred from joining their neighbors and family members on Election Day. This exclusion creates a sense of isolation at a time when these individuals are seeking to reintegrate into society.  In addition, exclusion from voting can also contribute to costly recidivism.  Studies have shown that the ability to access work, housing and the right to vote promotes a sense of belonging, responsibility and opportunity that helps to prevent individuals from reoffending.  The Legislature has an ethical and fiscal responsibility to eliminate this costly and harmful barrier to voting.

Restore the Vote legislation is a necessary step to address deep and persistent racial inequities in electoral participation in Minnesota.  While Minnesota prides itself on high voter turnout, our state also has the widest gap in the country in voter participation between Whites and People of Color.  This is an urgent and profound problem of the state’s electoral system that cannot be ignored.  Barring people from voting due to a conviction history only worsens this gap.  We cannot stand by while African Americans are systematically barred from participating in democracy. 

We appreciate that you and members of your caucus have called attention to racial inequities in Minnesota. These problems are serious and real.  And, the solutions are also real.   As this session nears its conclusion, we urge you to show Minnesotans that lawmakers are willing to act for racial equity and a stronger democracy.  We urge you to join us in supporting the passage of Restore the Vote.


Concerned Members of the African American Community

Jeff Hassan        

Executive Director, African American Leadership Forum (AALF)

Alida Abdullah 

Community Leader, AALF

Gary Cunningham          

President and CEO MEDA, AALF

Billy Russell      

Pastor, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Otis Zanders     

President and CEO, Ujamaa

V.J. Smith           

President and CEO, MPLS Mad Dads

Maher Abduselam         

Law Student at William Mitchell College of Law, AALF    

Jeff Martin        

President, St. Paul NAACP

Dr. Sylvia Bartley            

AALF Leader Education Work Group, AALF          

Dr. Keith Brooks              

Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy (JRJLA), AALF       

Kriystauhl Fitchett         

JRJLA, AALF       

Louis King          

President and CEO, Summit Academy

Dr. Lamar Hylton             

Educator, AALF

Amber Jones    

Community Member, AALF        

Brandon Jones 

Mental Health Therapist, JRJLA 

Cheryl Mayberry             

Leader AALF Education Work Group, AALF          

Deborah Montgomery 

Former St. Paul City Council Member, AALF         

Harry “Spike” Moss       

Leader – Freedom Fighter

Toni Newborn  

Assistant Director Civil Rights, AALF        

Dr. Reba Peoples            

M.D. Psychiatrist, AALF

Jason Sole          

Community Activist, AALF           

Gevonee Ford  

Executive Director, Network for the Development of Children of African Descent

Repa Mekha     

President and CEO, Nexus Community Partners

Stella Whitney-West    

CEO, North Point Health and Wellness   

Nicole Styles    

University of St. Thomas Doctoral Student, AALF              

Dr. Thomas Adams         

CEO and President, Better Futures MN 

Gloria Roach Thomas    

Clergy Pastor, Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church      

Jamil Jackson    

C.E.O. Change Equals Opportunity C.E.O.            

Billy Russell      

Teacher, Friendship Academy    

Michael McDowell        

Organizer, Harrison Neighborhood Association

Maya Buckner  

Social Worker, Harvest Network               

DeVonna Pittman           

Project Manager, Hennepin County       

Readus Fletcher              

Deputy Director, HREEO

Alfred Babington-Johnson         

President and CEO, Stairstep Foundation

Candice Breedlove        

Program Director, KMOJ Radio 

Kelvin Quarles 

General Manager, KMOJ Radio

Cortland Powell              

Grants & Contracts Manager, MPLS Mad Dads

Jack Collins        

Community Outreach Specialist, MLPS Mad Dads                            

Tabota Seyon   

Workforce Developer, Minneapolis Urban League           

Steven Belton  

President, Minneapolis Urban League   

Eugene Nichols

Board Chair, Open Cities Health Center

Nikki McComb 

Parent Engagement Specialist, Pillsbury United Communities     

Nazim Fakir       

Senior Pastor, St. Peter’s AME Church    


Tamuno Imbu   

Justice 4 All Leader, TakeAction Minnesota          

Nathanael Doehling      

Justice 4 All Leader, TakeAction Minnesota          

Terencio Safford             

Justice 4 All Leader, TakeAction Minnesota          

Kissy Coakley   

Justice 4 All Leader, TakeAction Minnesota          

Aaron Abram    

Voting Rights Campaign Organizer, TakeAction Minnesota         

Kandace Montgomery  

Organizer, TakeAction Minnesota           

Justin Terrell    

Justice 4 All Program Manager, TakeAction Minnesota 

Ben Buckley      

Evening Program Coordinator, Ujamaa Place    

Shakeer Abdullah           

Assistant Vice President for Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota