Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Nebraska

A summary of current felony disenfranchisement policies and legislative advocacy in Nebraska.

May 10, 2017

Under existing law, Nebraskans with past criminal convictions have their voting rights automatically restored two years after completion of sentence including prison, parole, and probation.

This could have changed under Legislative Bill 75, a bill that would repeal the state’s two-year waiting period after completion of sentence. LB 75 passed the non-partisan unicameral legislature with more than 2 to 1 votes in favor of the bill. The bill received strong support from civic groups. The Brennan Center provided advocates with legal analysis on the bill’s validity under the state constitution, and Diane Kincaid, Deputy Director of the American Parole and Probation Association wrote a letter to legislators in support of the bill.

On April 27, 2017, Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed LB 75. On May 8, 2017, an attempt to override the veto failed in the legislature.

Legislative Bill 75 Materials

Prior Developments

Before 2005, Nebraska permanently disenfranchised people with felony convictions unless civil rights were restored via an executive pardon. Below describes some of the history behind the change to the present policy of restoring voting rights upon completion of sentence after a two-year waiting period:

  • In late 2004, a legislative commission known as the Vote Nebraska Initiative, helped make change possible when it recommended that the state adopt automatic restoration of voting rights upon completion of sentence. The Attorney General had opposed prior automatic restoration bills on the ground that the Legislature had no constitutional authority to pass such legislation.
  • In early 2005, the Nebraska Legislature introduced LB 53, a bill that would repeal lifetime disenfranchisement and provide for automatic voting rights restoration two-years after completion of sentence. The Brennan Center provided an independent state constitutional analysis, demonstrating that the Legislature in fact had the authority to restore voting rights. The analysis was used by the bill’s sponsor to counter the Attorney General’s opposition.
  • In March 2005, the state Legislature passed LB 53. Days later, Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed the bill, but the Legislature overrode the veto and enacted it into law.

Press                                                                                       

Brennan Center Publications

  • Restoring the Right to Vote, Erika Wood (2009)
    • The Brennan Center’s policy proposal for restoring voting rights for citizens with past criminal convictions.
  • My First Vote (2009)
    • Testimonials of individuals who regained their voting rights after being disenfranchised because of past criminal convictions.
  • De Facto Disenfranchisement, Erika Wood & Rachel Bloom (2008)
    • A report on how complex laws, poorly informed officials, and misinformation lead to the de facto disenfranchisement of citizens with past criminal convictions who are eligible to vote.
  • Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History, Erin Kelley (2017)
    • A piece examining the historical roots of criminal disenfranchisement laws that today strip voting rights from millions of U.S. citizens.

For more information about the Brennan Center’s work on restoring the right to vote in Nebraska and around the country, please contact Makeda Yohannes, at makeda.yohannes@nyu.edu.