A bill that would allow ex-felons to vote without a two-year wait after their sentences are complete won approval from state senators Monday, but not by a lot. It will now move to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk for his signature. The Legislature voted 27-13 on final reading, not enough for a 30-vote veto override if one comes. The bill (LB75) came out of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on a 5-1 vote, but was questioned by committee Chairman John Murante.
Voting rights advocates and civil rights attorneys cheered the Florida Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Thursday approving language of a proposed amendment that would restore voting rights for convicted felons, saying the decision is a major step toward erasing a lingering vestige of Jim Crow. “It’s a game changer,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who said the ruling could alter the state’s political landscape by opening elections up for hundreds of thousands of new voters. If supporters collect the needed signatures to get on the measure on the 2018 ballot, it could energize Democratic-leaning voters in a year when Florida will elect a new governor and a U.S. senator. The proposed measure still needs a total of 766,200 signatures before it can be placed on the 2018 ballot. The proposal has at leasts 71,209 so far, according to the state’s Division of Elections. Also, more than 60 percent of voters would then need to approve it in before it becomes law and voting rights would be restored. Despite those looming obstacles, the ruling was considered a major victory.
Florida: Bipartisan Effort To Help Restore Ex-Felons’ Rights Faster Could Be In The Works For 2018 | WFSU
Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) are both carrying bills making it easier for ex-felons to have their civil rights restored to allow holding certain state licenses or voting. Thurston says the current process is flawed. Today, ex-offenders have to go before Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet—as the Executive Clemency Board—and ask that their rights be restored. “Under the previous administration’s attempt to reform restitution of rights, we had some 155,315 individuals who actually got their rights re-instated,” said Thurston. “Under the current administration, since 2011, we’ve only had 2,340. Basically what we’re saying is that it really shouldn’t be subjective to who’s in power in the Governor’s office.”
Felons convicted of some crimes would have their civil rights to vote and serve on juries automatically restored under a bill approved Monday by the Nevada Senate. Senate Bill 125 was approved on a 12-9 party-line vote, with all Republicans voting no. Sen. Patricia Farley, an independent from Las Vegas, joined with Democrats to support the measures. Under the bill sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, both Las Vegas Democrats, someone convicted and sentenced to probation would have their civil rights restored upon successfully completing one year. Similarly, a felon on parole would have their rights restored after completing either the full term of parole if it is less than one year; or after one year if the parole requirement is longer.
Desmond Meade is still waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to call him back after more than a month. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Voting Restoration Amendment sometime in April. Meade, director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, argued in favor of the amendment and challenged the current re-enfranchisement process on March 6. The Voting Restoration Amendment is a citizens’ initiative amendment proposed by Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons upon completion of their sentences, including parole and probation. The Supreme Court will decide whether the amendment will be on the ballot in the 2018 election.
Gov. Matt Bevin this week restored the voting rights of 24 Kentuckians who had felony convictions and had completed their sentences. Good for them. Unfortunately, Bevin’s action, the first felon voting restorations since he took office in December 2015, leaves about 1,100 who have petitioned him still disenfranchised. It also leaves out about 180,000 former felons, most of whose rights would have been restored under an executive order filed by former Gov. Steve Beshear shortly before he left office that was overturned by Bevin. … Oddly, despite the very long waiting list that includes some who have been waiting for years, most of Bevin’s two dozen are people who only very recently finished their sentences.
Editorials: The voting rights issue no one talks about: Ending the disenfranchisement of felons will strengthen democracy | Sean McElwee/Salon.com
Elections are decided by who votes — and increasingly, in America, by who cannot. Barriers to voting participation skew policy outcomes and elections to the right in the United States. One of the most racially discriminatory of these barriers is felon disenfranchisement. Nearly 6 million Americans are disenfranchised due to felonies. This may seem like a small share of the population, but the concentration of disenfranchisement in some states makes it enough to shift elections. In six Southern states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population is disenfranchised. Unsurprisingly, given the racial biases in the criminal justice system, the burden does not fall equally across racial groups. In the most definitive research, Christopher Uggen, Sarah Shannon and Jeff Manza find that “one of every 13 African-Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than non-African Americans.” New research suggests this is skewing democracy.
A new lawsuit by a group of ex-felons seeks to change the strict Florida law that restricts voting rights for felons. The seven plaintiffs in the class action have sued Governor Rick Scott claiming the law restricting their rights is unconstitutional. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. This suit was brought by the non-partisan Fair Elections Legal Network on behalf of the seven plaintiffs. It takes aim at the process by which they can seek to regain their voting rights. There is a backlog of more than 10,000 petitions to have voting rights restored. Over 1.6 million people in Florida have lost their voting rights, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel cited research from The Sentencing Project. In many states, those convicted of felonies find their voting rights restricted. Florida, however, strips all former felons of voting rights. In 2011, Scott and Republican lawmakers enacted laws requiring felons to wait for five to seven years after their sentences are completed before even applying to have their voting rights reinstated. The Sentencing Project estimates that across America 6.1 million Americans have lost their voting rights.
Nebraska lawmakers are considering a measure this session to help felons re-enter society after prison. A legislative committee has advanced a bill that would restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their sentence, including prison time and parole. … Now, a bill prioritized by senator Justin Wayne of Omaha would restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their sentence, including prison time and parole. “People don’t get surprised and think ‘oh no, I lost my voting rights’. they know they were committing a felony, and they know there is penalties for committing a felony” Sheriff Kramer said.
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.