ST PAUL, Minn. — On Super Tuesday, Jason Sole wore an I VOTED sticker proudly. For him, the red circle with the 'I voted' message is a badge of honor. For nearly a decade, he was unable to vote. His right to vote was stripped away when he became a convicted felon.
"I was locked out of being able to vote for so many years of my life. I am still getting adjusted to the process," he said.
Life has changed since that earlier conviction. Sole has been a criminal justice educator for a decade and is currently an adjunct professor at Hamline University. The 2013 Bush Fellow said a judge restored his voting rights in 2016. But casting his ballot Tuesday was not what he expected.
Sole posted a selfie on social media with the following caption on Super Tuesday:
As someone who was disenfranchised, I take great pride in voting but it never feels how I imagined. I casted a ballot today because my ancestors were lynched for me to have this right but I'm not feeling the Bern and I'm not all in. I'll ride for whoever wins though!
He said he wanted to feel joy when casting his ballot.
"I just don't feel hopeful. I am not undecided. I picked a person but I want to slide that ballot in and start dancing like '"Yea, excitement,'" he said. "Just not feeling that."
Sole - co-founder of Humanize my Hoodie - which earned national attention from John Legend, is excited about his new-found freedom.
"I am grateful to be able to cast that ballot. Many years I begged at the capitol. I pleaded at the capitol, restore my vote," he said.
Restoration lead to a bigger revelation and his life's work. He said his commitment to restore his vote pushed him to search for loopholes in the system. Through extensive research, he said he learned convicted felons could apply for “early termination of probation.”
"People fought for us to do this. I am not going to let them down," Sole said.
Currently, 52,000 Minnesotans are currently not able to vote because they are on probation. The ACLU is pushing to change Minnesota law.
A group of reformed felony offenders have filed a lawsuit in an effort to get their voting rights restored immediately, instead of waiting until they're off probation. If they prevail, Minnesota would follow the lead of states such as North Dakota, where people convicted of felonies are eligible to vote as soon as they're released from incarceration. We've seen bipartisan efforts at the Minnesota Legislature to restore the vote to those on probation, with some Republicans appearing with Democrats and advocates at Second Chance Coalition rallies. And the DFL-controlled House has passed a bill that would allow people to vote as soon as they are released back into the community.