weather icon Clear

Nevada lawmakers hear bill to restore voting rights for felons

CARSON CITY – Nevada would become the 15th state to restore full voting rights to felons upon their release from prison under a bill heard in committee Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 431 builds on civil rights action for felons approved by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2017, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, the bill sponsor, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Unlike the more comprehensive earlier measure, the latest proposal has one purpose, he said: to restore voting rights to people who have served their sentence.

“There is, especially in this day and time, no better way to motivate someone to stick to the rules, to comply with societal norms, than to allow them to participate in the electoral process,” Frierson said.

State laws on voting rights for felons vary widely, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Felons never lost the right to vote in Maine and Vermont and may do so even behind bars. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia restore voting rights automatically upon prison release and 22 states restore rights automatically after a post-release waiting period. In 12 states, felons lose voting rights indefinitely for certain crimes, need a governor’s pardon to have voting rights restored, or face additional requirements, such as completion of parole or probation.

Prior to 2003, all felony convictions in Nevada resulted in lifetime disenfranchisement without a pardon or court order. That year the state enacted a process for restoring voting rights for felons conditioned on the type and severity of offense and the terms of discharge from probation or parole.

The 2017 legislation loosened the earlier requirements. The pending measure goes further: An amendment Frierson included would automatically restore voting rights to all felons upon release, simplifying the process for deciding if an ex-felon meets requirements. It would go into effect with this year’s elections.

“If you’re out of prison, you can vote. If you’re not out of prison, you can’t,” Frierson said.

He and other supporters cited data from a 2016 survey by The Sentencing Project that found more than 6 million people in the U.S. — about 2.5 percent of the voting age population — could not vote because of a felony conviction. In six states – Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population could not vote.

In Nevada, the disenfranchised rate of just over 4 percent is ninth-highest among states, with more than 89,000 people who can’t vote.

Committee members asked few questions Wednesday and made only supportive comments. Only one person testified in opposition, saying that felons should be required to complete prison or parole sentences before having voting rights restored.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Press Association lauds approval of public records bill

The Nevada Press Association recognized the efforts of several state lawmakers — state Sens. David Parks, Melanie Scheible, Ben Kieckhefer, Jason Frierson — and Gov. Steve Sisolak for their efforts in passing a bill to strengthen the state’s public records laws.