Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Nevada

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

June 26, 2017

On June 4, 2017, Assembly Bill 181 was signed into law. Effective January 1st, 2019 the law will restore rights to Nevadans who received a “dishonorable discharge” from probation or parole, and institute a two-year waiting period before rights are restored for persons convicted of certain crimes classified as “category B.”

Current Disenfranchisement Law (effective until January 1, 2019)

Nevada has one of the most complex disenfranchisement laws in the country. Under current law, voting rights are automatically restored to people completing sentences for most first-time felony convictions. The following are permanently disenfranchised unless they are pardoned or granted a restoration of civil rights from a court, people with: (1) “category A” felonies; (2) “category B” felonies that resulted in substantial bodily harm to the victim; or (3) multiple felony convictions of any category that arose from separate instances. Individuals that received a “dishonorable discharge” from parole or probation permanently lose voting rights unless pardoned.

Recent Developments

On June 4, 2017, Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law Assembly Bill 181, a law that will restore rights to thousands of Nevadans with past convictions who previously were permanently disenfranchised. Effective January 1, 2019, Nevada’s law will no longer permanently disenfranchise citizens solely because they received a “dishonorable discharge” from probation or parole, and persons with certain convictions classified as “category B” will have their rights restored two years after completion of sentence.

A broad group of criminal justice professionals and civic organizations testified in support of the bill, including the: Nevada District Attorneys Association, Washoe County Public Defender, Clark County Public Defender, ACLU of Nevada, League of Women Voters of Nevada, Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Libertarian Party of Nevada, and Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities published an op-ed calling on the governor to support the bill.

The new law comes six years after Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a more expansive voting rights restoration bill. A.B. 181’s sponsor, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, stated that his bill was an attempt to address the governor’s concerns about that earlier legislation. See below section for more information on previous rights restoration efforts.

Press

Past Developments

In 2011, the Nevada legislature passed Assembly Bill 301, which would have simplified Nevada’s complicated law by automatically restoring voting rights to anyone who fully completes a sentence of imprisonment, probation, or parole. However, on June 17 of that year, Gov. Sandoval ignored the bipartisan will of the legislature and vetoed the bill. The Brennan Center gave testimony in support of the bill on two occasions. The American Probation and Parole Association also supported the bill.

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 Voting Rights in Nevada, please contact Makeda Yohannes, at makeda.yohannes@nyu.edu.