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New Nevada Law Will Restore Voting Rights For Ex-Felons

Flanked by lawmakers and advocates, Governor Steve Sisolak signs AB431.
Paul Boger
KUNR Public Radio
Flanked by lawmakers and advocates, Governor Steve Sisolak signs AB431.

Governor Steve Sisolak has approved a measure that will restore the voting rights of thousands of ex-felons upon the completion of their sentence or parole.

In a brief ceremony in the State Capitol, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 431 on Tuesday.

Passed along mostly party lines, the measure looks to immediately restore the voting rights of any person convicted of a felony upon the completion of their sentence, whether that’s when they’re released from prison or finish their probation.

Sisolak says the law will further help individuals who have paid their debt to society become active participants in their communities.

“Re-enfranchisement is key to rehabilitating and reintegrating a formerly incarcerated person back into society and reducing the chance that they end up back in prison again,” said Sisolak. “That's because when you vote, you have a stake in your community, you have a stake in your state, you have a stake in your country and in our democracy.”

Most Republicans, on the other hand, argued that the law goes too far by extending voting rights to those convicted of heinous crimes, like rape or murder.

GOP Senator Ira Hansen of Sparks said there was already a process in which individuals convicted of a Class A or B felony can get their rights back.

“I think we've gone way too far, and we're trying to make a group of people that, frankly, have done the most horrible things in society into some sort of martyred group, like they're the victims rather than the victims whose lives they ruined." 

Democrats said the law will only apply to individuals that are able to complete their sentence and, therefore, cannot be applied to anyone with a life sentence.

According to estimates by supporters of the measure, as many as 77,000 people in Nevada may soon be re-enfranchised.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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