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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
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~ Herring joins coalition of 15 attorneys general in arguing that denying the vote to individuals on parole or probation discourages rehabilitation and disproportionately harms minority communities ~



RICHMOND (November 24, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in opposing a Minnesota law that prevents returning citizens from voting until they have completed their terms of parole or probation. In an amicus brief filed in Schroeder v. Simon before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that allowing returning citizens to vote strengthens their ties to their community, decreasing the likelihood of recidivism. Further, they argue that the law disproportionately harms the state’s African American, Latinx, and Native American communities. The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to restore the vote to individuals still serving probation or parole.


“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy and should be a fundamental right for all Americans, including formerly incarcerated individuals who deserve a second chance,” said Attorney General Herring. “Minnesota’s law prevents many from voting even after they have returned to their communities, potentially disenfranchising tens of thousands of Minnesotans, especially in minority communities. Civic engagement is such an important way to make individuals feel like they are members of a community and we should be working to make it easier for everyone to vote, not harder.”


Felon disenfranchisement in the United States is the product of a patchwork of state laws, which vary widely. Efforts to expand the right to vote embrace the notion that allowing returning citizens to vote benefits both the individuals and the communities they rejoin. However, an estimated 5.2 million people across the United States—2.3 percent of all adults—were barred from casting a ballot in this year’s election because of felony convictions. Of those, roughly 3.9 million are no longer incarcerated.


Minnesota is one of 16 states that require returning citizens to complete the terms of their imprisonment, parole or supervised release, and probation before they automatically regain the right to vote. As a result, over 55,000 Minnesota residents serving a supervised sentence in the community cannot vote.


In their amicus brief, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues support the plaintiffs’ challenge to the Minnesota felon disenfranchisement law because:


  • Expanding voting to returning citizens promotes successful reintegration and enhances public safety: Over the past 25 years, states have restored the right to vote to more than one million citizens by reforming their felon disenfranchisement laws. These reform efforts include laws repealing lifetime disenfranchisement, allowing people convicted of felonies to vote while completing the terms of their probation or parole, eliminating requirements to pay legal financial obligations, and providing information to felons leaving correctional facilities about restoration of their voting rights and registering to vote. Studies find that restoring voting rights to returning citizens fosters civic participation and reduces their likelihood of committing further crimes. Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting that continued disenfranchisement supports the goal of rehabilitation.
  • Felon disenfranchisement disproportionately harms African American, Latinx, and Native American communities: States have recognized the importance of restoring voting rights to returning citizens given the disparate impact of felon disenfranchisement laws on minority communities. Mass incarceration has resulted in voting rights disparities for people of color. Nationwide, in the November 2020 election, more than 6.2% of the African American voting age population in the United States could not vote as a result of felon disenfranchisement laws, as compared with only 1.7% of the non-African American population. Data also suggests that disenfranchisement laws disproportionately harm Latinx people because they are incarcerated at higher rates than the non-Latinx population: about 2.4 times greater for Latinx men and 1.5 times for Latinx women. In Minnesota, the numbers are even starker: the latest data suggest that more than 7.2% of the Black voting-age population, over 3.7% of the Latinx voting-age population, and 5.9% of the Native American population are disenfranchised as a result of felony convictions.


Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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