In May 2017, senators passed a bill (LB75) introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne that would have restored ex-felon’s right to vote as soon as they complete their sentences or probations. The bill was vetoed by Ricketts and senators did not have sufficient votes override the veto.
Currently, there is a two year restriction after ex-felons serve their sentence and any probation time they are assigned. This sort of disenfranchisement serves no correctional purpose, is anti democratic, and clearly done with partisan motives. In most countries around the world, the debate is whether current prisoners should be allowed to vote, not ex-prisoners.
Society expects people, even ex-felons, to become responsible members of society. Restrictions to ex-felons’ right to vote, regulates those people to second class citizens. People convicted of felonies not only face restrictions from government funds, access to jobs and housing, and suffer from overall public shame, but they are also currently forced out of suffrage.
By assuming that a felon is unable to participate productively in society after completing their punishment, we send the message that those who have done wrong do not have the potential to improve. If we thought criminals could never be reformed, we wouldn’t let them out of prison in the first place.
Furthermore, Ricketts shot this bill down with only he and his party in mind, not what is best for Nebraska. It’s no secret that black people tend to vote democratic. It’s also no surprise that black people are the most incriminated group of people. Is doesn’t take a genius to see that Gov. Ricketts clearly benefits from ex-felons being stripped of their right to vote.
Once people serve their time, they should be given the opportunity to participate productively in a normal life. This includes the right to be politically involved and have some degree of control over the people and institutions that make and enforce laws that apply to them. Ultimately, we choose to withhold the right to vote, we hurt felons’ chances of success on their road to redemption and we endanger the very health of our democracy.