Minnesota Judge Reprimanded for Blocking Law Allowing Felons to Vote

A Minnesota judge who in 2023 declared a new state law to restore the voting rights of convicted felons unconstitutional was reprimanded in late June by a Minnesota judicial oversight board.

Mille Lacs County District Judge Matthew Quinn declared the state’s new voting law unconstitutional when sentencing two offenders to probation in October 2023.

Quinn warned the two defendants that they were not eligible to register to vote, explaining that the state Legislature’s approval of the law was not the type of “affirmative act” needed to restore a felon’s right to vote.

Judge Quinn said at the time that he had a duty to continue independently evaluating whether felons could vote once they completed probation.

The Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards publicly reprimanded Quinn on June 27 for improperly ruling on the constitutionality of the voting rights law after investigating a complaint it received about the judge.

The board reiterated that under the law, those ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction would have their right to vote restored once they are no longer incarcerated.

It said Quinn’s decision to deny the voting rights to individuals sentenced to probation was done “without authority.”

Quinn’s unilateral decision was especially unusual since nobody involved in either case ever asked the judge to rule on the defendants’ voting rights or the constitutionality of the law.

In its reprimand, the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards found that Judge Quinn violated multiple ethics rules by not following the law.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned Quinn’s decision in November 2023, ruling that the judge did not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the law. The appellate court restored the voting rights Quinn stripped from several individuals.

Quinn was previously reprimanded by the Judicial Standards Board in late 2020 after he expressed public support for Donald Trump’s reelection and made critical comments about the Democrat nominee Joe Biden.