Kevin Wong voted in the 2008 election, but after being convicted on charges including armed robbery, theft and aggravated assault, he never thought he’d be able to go to the polls again. “I was released from prison on Nov. 6,” he said — two days before the 2016 elections. “And I found it ironic that although I’d watched every debate inside, I was now disenfranchised.” But with help from the Restore Your Vote campaign, which helps people with criminal records navigate a complicated patchwork of state laws that limit or revoke their voting rights, Wong was able to determine he is, in fact, allowed to vote. Last week, he received his voter registration card, and he plans to cast his vote in the general election.
“Taking away my right to vote — I feel like so many people have fought for this right, people have died for this right. It would sort of be an injustice to civil liberties that people of color, especially, have acquired within the past 50 years or so,” said Wong, who is now a political science major at UNLV and an intern for the Restore Your Vote campaign. “It would be nice for me to be able to choose my elected leaders especially considering the policies that are enacted do affect me.”
Although not as severe as states including Florida, Nevada’s laws restricting ex-felons’ rights to vote are among the harsher rules in the country. As of 2016, there were nearly 90,000 people in Nevada who couldn’t vote because of a conviction — about 4 percent of the voting age population and a critical figure considering Nevada’s status as a battleground state with close races.