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In support of House File 40B and restoring the right to vote

As part of Tubman’s commitment to social justice and our work toward peaceful communities for all, we are supporting the Restore the Vote MN efforts to pass House File 40, which would restore the right to vote for people who have completed their incarcerations.

Currently in Minnesota, people who are released from incarceration but are on parole or probation are ineligible to vote. By restoring the right to vote sooner for people living in the community, this change will make the law less confusing, save government resources, and encourage positive participation in the community and neighborhood. 

Tubman CEO Jennifer Polzin was one of 15 people to testify in favor of House File 40 at the Minnesota House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Elections in February. Other testifiers included bill author Rep. Raymond Dehn, Secretary of State Steve Simon, Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, and numerous other nonprofits and community activists. The bill was moved forward to the Committee on Government Operations, and we will continue monitoring and supporting this effort throughout legislature.

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The testimony presented to the House Subcommittee on Elections is as follows:

My name is Jennifer Polzin, and I am the CEO of Tubman, a multi-service organization that serves approximately 25,000 people each year in Hennepin, Washington, and Ramsey counties and the surrounding area. The people we serve and their families have experienced many forms of trauma – including relationship violence, assault, exploitation and trafficking, addiction, homelessness, and more. In addition to our crisis intervention services to address their immediate safety and wellbeing, we also work alongside them toward long-term stability, personal achievement, and healing after trauma.

For many of the survivors and families with whom we work, a critical piece of that long-term stability is rebuilding connections.

Many have been isolated by abusive partners or traffickers, or have lost relationships because of addiction, or have been pushed to the margins of society by homelessness and poverty. Many are teenagers or young people impacted by these issues and still figuring out their place in the world.

And some have criminal records. We work with them to resolve any criminal justice issues they have, and then we help them move forward into their future.

Voting is one piece of rebuilding connections. The right to vote is a fundamental piece of our democracy. It encourages participation in civic life, motivates law-abiding behavior, and rebuilds ties to neighbors and community.

Our organization is named after Harriet Tubman, conductor on the Underground Railroad, Civil War soldier, suffragette, and much more. Harriet’s life’s work was helping people be free, and then helping freed slaves and many others realize the promise of America.

During her lifetime, felony disenfranchisement laws were one tool used to systemically prevent freed Black Americans from participating in elections. And today, we know these laws continue to disproportionately impact minority and marginalized communities. This is not a legacy we wish to continue in Minnesota.

Anything that effectively creates second-class citizenship in this country is a betrayal of all Harriet Tubman lived for.

Tubman’s vision for the future is one of thriving people, healthy relationships, and peaceful communities.

Preventing people from voting does not help them to thrive.

It does not create peaceful and engaged communities.

We must do better. And today we have the opportunity to do better.

Thank you.