Home » Nebraska bill gives voting rights back to people convicted of felonies once released from prison

Nebraska bill gives voting rights back to people convicted of felonies once released from prison

by The Grio

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill Thursday to restore the voting rights of those convicted of felonies upon the completion of their sentences, including prison and parole time.

The bill, introduced for years by Omaha state Sen. Justin Wayne, passed by a wide margin in the last year of Wayne’s second term. He is barred by term limits from running this year for a third term.

Currently, a person who has been convicted of a felony must wait two years after completing all the terms of their conviction before regaining voting rights. Wayne’s measure eliminates that waiting period, established in 2005 by the Legislature. Prior to the waiting period, a person convicted of a felony lost their right to vote indefinitely.

The passage of the bill “means everything for the thousands of people who have not been full participants in society,” said TJ King, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based outreach specialist with the Nebraska AIDS Project who was unable to vote in the 2022 general election after coming off probation for drug and theft convictions three months earlier.

King said the bill’s passage is the final layer in his ability to be civically engaged and “have a full voice and complete connection to the community.”

For years, Wayne’s effort to restore voting rights for felons faced opposition from several Republicans in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature. Opponents maintained that a two-year waiting period is reasonable and served as a deterrent to committing crime in the first place.

Until this year, Wayne’s closest brush with success came in 2017, when his bill was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by then-Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

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He prevailed by appealing to the practical sensibilities of law-and-order lawmakers.

“Studies have shown that if you allow people to engage in their community upon being released, the recidivism rate…

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