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Felon voting registration events held following new law enactment

This story originally aired on FOX9.

It’s been more than a month since over 55,000 Minnesotans re-gained the right to vote, and efforts to remind them of that continue.

"A lot of these events are really to continue to keep the message out there," said Michelle Witte of the League of Women Voters Minnesota. "That this is now available to you to have the freedom to vote."

On Friday, the League set up a table in the front hallway of the federal courthouse in Minneapolis to help those who are out of prison for a felony, but still on supervision, register to vote.

It was one of six such sites across the state, with similar voter registration kiosks in courthouses and libraries in St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, Bemidji and Fergus Falls.

"We’re excited about the momentum," said Witte, "And getting that word out we know is really, really important."

The "Restore the Vote" push began two decades ago, but became law when signed by Governor Tim Walz in March. It took effect June 1.

Before then, felons released from prison were not eligible to vote in Minnesota until their probation ended and restitution fully paid.

The argument to make the change is that voting rights can be a big part of rehabilitation and re-entering society.

"They are far less likely to end up back where they once were," said Secretary of State Steve Simon. "They are far less likely to re-offend, so this is in everybody’s best interest."

Simon came to the federal courthouse to help highlight the registration push, along with Minnesota’s Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell.

"We know that people who are more connected to their communities and engaged in their communities actually are less risk of coming back into the system," said Schnell. "And that is an important public safety objective."

Also on hand was the Chief Probation Officer for the U.S. District of Minnesota, Kito Bess, who emphasized their duty to make those entering supervised release fully aware of all their legal rights.

"We’re doing nothing more than educating while simultaneously connecting persons under supervision with a local community resource."

In the meantime, the new law is being challenged in court. A lawsuit from the Minnesota Voters Alliance, a conservative group, argues that the state constitution requires a felony sentence to be served in full before voting rights are restored. They believe that includes any probation and restitution.

Simon believes the state constitution supports the new law, and it will ultimately stand.

But even as they await the legal process to play out, the new law remains in effect.

"It’s full steam ahead," he said. "We are implementing this law as the legislature and governor intended and as the law intends us to do, so we’re doing that."

This story originally aired on FOX9. Watch the segment below: