In November, more than 1.1 million people voted in Nevada for a turnout percentage of around 77 percent, but one group was barred from participating from the beginning. Voter disenfranchisement has been a hot topic in recent years, especially as more reports show certain laws affect minorities and low-income people disproportionately. Washoe County faced a voter disenfranchisement lawsuit in 2016 when the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe successfully sued for access to polling places. Now the discussion at the Legislature has shifted to making it easier for ex-felons to vote after serving their sentences. Current Nevada law allows first-time nonviolent ex-felons to have their voting rights restored after they serve their sentence or been discharged from parole or probation. A multiple offender must go through the judicial process to have their rights restored.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, both Las Vegas Democrats, think that’s a problem. Both caucus leaders introduced bills that would more easily restore the civil rights of offenders.
“The impetus for this bill came from bipartisan bills proposed by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, whom everyone can acknowledge as a staunch conservative, and Cory Booker, whom everyone can acknowledge is not,” Ford said during testimony before a Nevada Senate committee.
But restoring the rights of ex-felons is a touchy subject, especially with politicians who are often leery of being seen as softon crime – or just outright opposed.