Nevada may restore voting rights to non-violent felons

Nevada could be the next state to restore voting rights to some former felons.

A re-enfranchisement bill passed the state Assembly last Friday, and was debated this week in the Senate. It would allow people convicted of non-violent felonies to vote upon being released from prison, as is the case in many states.

Currently, Nevada’s laws on felon disenfranchisement are among the nation’s most complex. Many former felons in Nevada are permanently disenfranchised unless the governor restores their rights individually.

A 2010 ACLU survey revealed widespread confusion even among election officials about the state’s rules for regaining the right to vote.

With Democrats controlling both houses, the bill, which was introduced by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, appears to stand a decent chance of passing. But Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, vetoed a more expansive 2011 bill that would have applied to everyone who completed their sentence. At that time, Sandoval called the right to vote  a “privilege” that shouldn’t be afforded to those guilty of “the most egregious crimes.”

Earlier this year, Sandoval vetoed another voting rights bill, which would have established automatic voter registration in the state.

More than 89,000 Nevadans are disenfranchised because of past felonies, the ACLU says. It’s not clear how many of those would regain their voting rights if the current bill were to pass.

In recent years, Virginia and Maryland have restored voting rights to large numbers of ex-felons. And on Wednesday, Alabama’s governor signed a bill into law that narrows the list of crimes leading to disenfranchisement, though voting rights advocates said it doesn’t go far enough.

 

Photo: Nevada State Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson

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