Nebraska lawmakers gave initial approval Friday to a bill that would allow people convicted of felonies to vote when they complete their prison sentences and any parole or probation. Senators voted 28-8 to eliminate the state’s two-year waiting period, which Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha says continues to disenfranchise Nebraska residents who are racial minorities. People of color made up about 15 percent of the state’s population in the most recent census and nearly half of its prisoners. “This disenfranchisement law is at best profoundly outdated,” Wayne said. “At worst, it’s discrimination against minority voters.” The bill would affect about 7,800 felons in Nebraska.
Restoring voting rights is an important step to helping former felons engage with their community and prevent them from returning to prison, he said. In Florida, where many felons’ voting rights were restored automatically from 2007 to 2011, a 2011 report from the Florida Parole Commission found a recidivism rate of 11 percent among felons who had voting rights restored, compared to 33 percent among felons before the 2007 policy change.
Nebraska lawmakers have emphasized overhauling the state’s prison system and reforming sentencing to save money and reduce prison overcrowding.
“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,” Wayne said.
Full Article: Nebraska advances bill to restore felon voting rights sooner | Government and Politics | fremonttribune.com.