To the Editor,

Senate Democrats made their public safety priorities very clear this week. They want to give convicted felons the right to vote and non-citizens the right to driver’s licenses. Instead of providing tax relief to Minnesotans, they instead want to reward those breaking the law, regardless of how it undermines our state security and election systems. In a budget year, they’ve chosen to adopt a social justice agenda that ignores the needs of Minnesotans.

Democrats pushed through two extreme bills, but the first one I want to touch on is their “Driver’s License for All” bill. For the most part, folks across the state want to keep our roads safe, and though the bill’s author claims that’s the focus of this legislation, it truly goes far beyond public safety needs. This bill gives standard driver’s licenses to those who have come here illegally. At its core, a driver’s license is meant to be proof of someone’s identity, but the non-citizens that will be able to apply for these do not even have to show proof that they live in Minnesota. Licenses are tickets to more than just driving—they are used for boarding planes, entering federal buildings, accessing state benefits, same-day voter registration… The list goes on. By allowing those who are here illegally to have access to this documentation, we are undermining federal security, state security, and commerce. This bill doesn’t make any sense.

Despite how bad this bill was, Senate Republicans made good faith efforts to make it better and more workable. We put forward multiple amendments: denoting the license is for driving privileges only and cannot be used for voting, addressing a national security loophole that would allow illegal immigrants access to federal buildings and flights with a Minnesota driver’s license before the REAL ID standards are enforced, ensuring traffic safety, and requiring data sharing for the purposes of helping victims of crime. Unsurprisingly, Democrats had no interest in what we had to say.

The second bill they passed this week was a felon voting bill that restores voting rights for convicted felons before they have completed their sentences. As we know, Minnesota is a low incarceration state. Our laws have typically focused on rehabilitation over incarceration, which has led to shorter jail time, but longer probation periods. That means most probation time is part of the sentencing process. This bill gives felons access to voting while they’re still serving probation time—they haven’t completed their sentence, and they haven’t served their time for crimes committed, but we are allowing them to affect our political process. If we were really concerned about folks being denied the right to vote, we’d put forward bills that focus on crime prevention. The solution isn’t just doing away with penalties of crimes committed. By allowing felons to vote when their sentence is still in progress, we are denying justice to the victims of crime.

We offered amendments to this bill as well: requirement of a two-year waiting period for voting rights to be restored, and prevention of violent criminals and those convicted of a felon for voter fraud from regaining their right to vote until their full sentence. Again, Democrats refused to accept a single amendment. 

Senate Republicans raised numerous concerns with these bills, but they fell on deaf ears. Senate Democrats have made it clear that they have no interest in bipartisan work this year. They have forced through multiple bills that are extreme and hyper-partisan in their focus. Republicans still represent half of the state, and Democrats are unwilling to even address the concerns of greater Minnesota. Our state expects and deserves better.

Senator Paul Utke,

Park Rapids