Legislators Considering Nevada’s Disfranchisement Laws

Affiliate: ACLU of Nevada
March 23, 2011 3:21 pm

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CARSON CITY – Assembly Bill 301, which would simplify Nevada’s complex web of current laws on voter disfranchisement, will be considered by members of the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on Tuesday March 22. Nevada has one of the most severe and complex voter disfranchisement policies in the nation, barring individuals convicted of felonies from voting until they complete their sentences and have their rights restored, a process that varies greatly based on the individual’s type, date and place of convictions.

Of the 43,500 Nevadans disfranchised under this policy, almost half have completed their sentences but remain unable to vote. Countless others are kept from voting because current law is unclear and current policies require documentation that is difficult to obtain.

A study conducted by the ACLU of Nevada in 2010 found that the state’s voter registration agencies and websites give conflicting and sometimes incorrect information about registering to vote with a criminal conviction.

Alarmingly, voter disfranchisement in Nevada disproportionately affects people and communities of color. African Americans account for 29% of all disfranchised voters, and 12.4% of all African Americans in Nevada are barred from voting due to felony convictions.

Criminal justice professionals recognize the importance of voting among people with past convictions, and research has shown that those who vote are half as likely to be re-arrested. If AB301 is passed, it could not only save taxpayer money that is currently spent on cumbersome voter restoration procedures, but also potentially save Nevada millions of dollars by reducing recidivism.

Assembly Bill 301 would automatically restore voting rights to all Nevadans who have completed a felony prison sentence, probation or parole and eliminate the requirement to show documentation to register. It would also inform and educate elections employees and past offenders about their restored rights in clear and reader-friendly terms. “Voting is a fundamental right, protected by more constitutional amendments than any other right we enjoy as Americans,” says Rebecca Gasca, Legislative and Policy Director at the ALCU of Nevada. “Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote, and a healthy community needs to hear the voices of all its citizens.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada works to protect the rights and liberties of all Nevadans, including the right to vote.

A copy of the ACLU of Nevada’s study, “Voting With a Criminal Conviction in Nevada: Administrative Problems and the Need for Reform” can be found online at aclunv.org.

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