In Nebraska, a showdown on felon re-enfranchisement

The sponsor of a Nebraska bill to re-enfranchise ex-felons says he’ll try to override a gubernatorial veto of the measure.

On Thursday. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have restored to former felons the right to vote upon completion of their full sentence. Currently, they must wait two years.

“It is a disgrace to think that we would continue to deny taxpayers the right to vote,” Sen. Justin Wayne, who introduced the bill, said Tuesday in response to the veto. “I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many who made a mistake, want to return to their homes and contribute to their communities by getting jobs and paying taxes.”

Overriding the veto would require 30 votes in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature. As we reported at the time, the bill passed last week with 27 votes, though seven lawmakers abstained and two were absent. Nebraska’s lawmakers are officially nonpartisan.

In vetoing the bill, Ricketts wrote that he believes the legislature can’t restore voting rights without a constitutional amendment. He added that the two-year waiting period “provides an incentive to maintain a clean record and avoid subsequent convictions.”

Nationally, an estimated 6.1 million Americans, disproportionately African-Americans, are disenfranchised because of a past felony conviction.

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