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Calling on the state to include all Minnesotans in our caucus process

Right now Minnesota law excludes people who aren’t eligible to vote from participating in the caucus process, including undocumented immigrants and people on probation or parole.

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos

There was a lot of news at the DFL state convention earlier this month, but one major development that you may have missed is an exciting step toward making our state’s political process a more welcoming place for all families in Minnesota.

On the last day of the convention, the DFL delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the state to change the law that excludes some of our friends and neighbors from our democratic process.

As Minnesotans, we are proud of the fact that we are consistently one of the states with the highest level of voter participation. We care deeply about engaging with our neighbors to make better lives for families in Minnesota, whether black, brown or white. We believe that all people should have a chance to make their voices heard.

But right now Minnesota law excludes people who aren’t eligible to vote from participating in the caucus process, including undocumented immigrants and people on probation or parole. That means our families, friends and neighbors are not allowed to be part of deciding who represents our state and makes decisions about the future of Minnesota.

This means that thousands of Minnesotans are excluded from our democracy. At the DFL Convention a group of Minnesotans took a stand to change this, a step we hope is the first of many toward a fairer and more just system.

Participation as a core value

DFL delegates decided to model participation as a core value in our state with the resolution, but this isn’t a partisan issue. This is about ensuring we are living our state’s values as a place where every person has a voice in deciding our shared future.

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If we are serious about a Minnesota future that includes everybody, we should agree that inclusion of all our community members — regardless of race, religion or class — is needed to make our democracy as strong as possible. Minnesota’s strength comes from us being there for each other. This means bringing together people from every corner of the state and from different backgrounds to find common ground. This isn’t possible if we exclude people from our democratic process.

Those who currently have power like to divide us and blame certain groups in order to maintain a system that benefits only a small few at the top. If we change this outdated rule, we can take action that will reflect the best of our state and make sure everyone is included.

Our state and country’s history around voting and access to deciding who is in power has not been good. Racism, sexism and xenophobia have all caused us to exclude people in the past, and they are still lingering today. But at times in our past we have worked to come together to make positive change. These efforts have moved us towards a world where every family has the chance to be part of the process in deciding our collective future, but we still have much work to do. 

Concept behind this: the Golden Rule

The concept behind this work isn’t hard to understand. It is the Golden Rule, where we treat others the way we would want to be treated. We know that all of our families want similar things, but right now some of us aren’t able to take part in the work to decide who represents us.

That is why it was so exciting to pass this resolution and why we will be bringing this conversation to every corner of Minnesota. We know the state has the power to change this law and make our process stronger, and we will work hard to make it happen.

We must address inclusion and participation of our formerly convicted community members, immigrants and refugees who are not yet citizens. All of our voices matter, and when we cut some people out we weaken the future of our state.

Together, we can make Minnesota a state where our political process — the hard work of making a brighter future for our families — is something that is open to every single Minnesotan, no exceptions.

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos is the executive director of Unidos MN.

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