Gov. Steve Sisolak Wednesday signed into law a bill that restores voting rights of people who have been convicted of felonies but released from prison and discharged from probation.
The provisions of the bill will go into effect July 1, 2019, restoring the right to vote to an estimated 77,000 Nevadans.
“I firmly believe that we should be doing everything we can to expand access to the ballot box, not restrict it,” Sisolak said before signing the bill. “This also includes people who have paid their debts to society after committing a crime. Not only is restoring their right to vote the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do.”
Sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, AB 431, will restore the right to vote once an individual is released from prison and has completed parole. The bill received bipartisan support in the Assembly, passing 32-9, while passing along party lines in the Senate with a 13-8 vote.
“Nevada is turning the page on outdated laws in our criminal justice system that punish individuals long after they have served their time,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said in a statement. “Assembly Bill 431 seeks to help people as they transition back into society. The point of the bill is clear: When men and women have completed their sentence and rejoin society, they should be able to fully embrace civic engagement, and that includes voting.”
Under the prior process individuals released from prison to petition the court to regain the right to vote, but it was cumbersome and, according to critics, “illusory.” Under the process, only 281 Nevadans had their rights restored over a 20-year period, according to the D.C.-based research group The Sentencing Project.
AB431 speeds up the process so it takes effect immediately following release and wouldn’t distinguish between those released from prison versus those on parole and probation. “If you’re out of prison, you can vote,” Frierson said. “If you’re not out of prison, you cant.”
Nevada became the 39th state to automatically restore voting rights to people after they’re released from prison. Florida voters recently approved a ballot measure that would automatically restore the right to vote to 1.4 million people with felony convictions — though Republican lawmakers have been working to stymie the voter-approved amendment by placing limitations on voter restoration.