Felon Voting Restrictions Removed by Nebraska Legislature, Governor Vetoes the Bill

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Image of Inmate Casting a Ballot
Source: thegreenbelt.blogspot.com (accessed Apr. 28, 2017)

On Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) vetoed a bill that would have allowed convicted felons to vote immediately after completing their term of incarceration, parole, and probation. The Nebraska Legislature had passed the bill (LB75) three days earlier in a 27-13 vote.

Under Nebraska law, convicted felons must wait two years after completion of their sentences before they are able to register to vote. Legislative Bill 75 would have removed this waiting period. In order to override the governor’s veto, the Nebraska Legislature would need 30 votes.

According to Governor Ricketts, “waiting two years to demonstrate that you can be a productive member of society, that you can keep your nose clean, is not too much to ask of convicted felons.” However, supporters of the bill felt differently. According to Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne, “this restriction of a two-year waiting period is not only unnecessary and unjust, but it is counterproductive to what this body says is important.” He also argued that the current law is discriminatory against minority voters in the state.

A Feb. 2017 study published by Nebraskans for Civic Reform found that one out of every 18 black citizens in Nebraska (5.6%) is deprived of the ability to vote due to the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws, while one out of 81 (1.2%) of all Nebraskans are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. According to a study by The Sentencing Project, in 2016 over 17,000 Nebraskans were unable to vote due the state’s disenfranchisement laws.

Felon voting laws vary by state. In 10 states, a felon may lose the vote permanently, even after the term of incarceration, parole, probation, and fines are completed. Two states, Maine and Vermont, allow incarcerated felons to vote by absentee ballot.


Sources:

Joe Duggan, “Ricketts Won’t Sign Bill to Restore Felons’ Voting Rights Sooner, Says Current 2-Year Wait ‘Not Too Much to Ask’,” omaha.com, Apr. 26, 2017

Nebraskans for Civic Reform, “Removing the Wait: Disenfranchisement in Nebraska,” nereform.org, Feb. 2017

Office of Governor Pete Ricketts, “Gov. Ricketts Vetoes Bill Granting Voting Rights to Newly-Released Felons,” governor.nebraska.gov, Apr. 27, 2017

The Sentencing Project, “6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016,” sentencingproject.org, Oct. 6, 2016

York News-Times, “Nebraska Advances Bill to Restore Felon Voting Rights Sooner,” yorknewstimes.com, Apr. 1, 2017

Joanne Young, “Controversial Ex-Felon Voting Bill Moves to Governor’s Desk,” journalstar.com, Apr. 24, 2017