Nevada Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson is introducing a new bill that would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated men and women.
According to The Nevada Independent, the 90,000 Nevadans who were not able to vote in the 2016 election because of their prior convictions may now have the right to vote in the upcoming election in 2020.
“I believe when we have folks involved in the criminal justice system and expect them to reintegrate into society, 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,” said Frierson.
The Independent notes that, before 2003, all those with felony convictions in the state of Nevada could not serve on juries or vote unless they individually petitioned the Department of Public Safety or were granted a pardon.
In 2003, lawmakers approved a bill allowing for the automatic restoration of voting rights for most people convicted of a felony. According to The Independent, the law included a few exemptions including whether the person had an honorable discharge from parole or probation and whether the person had committed a category A felony or certain types of category B felonies.
According to the article, former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a 2011 bill that would have automatically restored the voting rights to any person upon release from prison. Instead, he signed AB181 into law in 2017, restoring voting rights to individuals convicted of a nonviolent Category B felony or lesser felony charge or was dishonorably discharged from parole or probation. The bill also retroactively restored civil rights such as jury services and voting rights to anyone released from prison or discharged from parole or probation prior to Oct. 1, 2017.
The article said that the 2017 bill did not apply to individuals convicted of multiple felonies. Category B and Category A felonies would not meet the criteria. That law took effect in January and was not in place prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
Felonies in Nevada are categorized from A to E with Category A being the most severe and subject to the most punitive punishments.
According to the article, Frierson’s bill would automatically restore the voting rights to any person regard- less of the severity of their crimes. Likewise, the bill would almost instantaneously restore the rights to vote for any person released from prison living in Nevada, even if they had not served time in the state or were released prior to the passage of the bill.
“We don’t have thrown away citizens,” Frierson said. “We believe in second chances in my opinion. The spirit behind the existing law came from a period where we threw away citizens, where we didn’t value everyone’s input, and it was only those who had the wherewithal to fully participate that were able to do so.”
Other states are also making adjustments to their laws to allow felons the right to vote, while others never even took felons’ voting rights away to begin with. Nearly 65% of Florida voters approved a 2018 ballot measure automatically restoring the right to vote for any person with a prior felony conviction upon their release from prison, except for murder or sexual offenses.