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
- Veto Override Vote (May 8, 2017)
- Governor Pete Ricketts’s Veto Letter (April 27, 2017)
- LB 75 Passage Vote (April 24, 2017)
- Testimony in Support of LB 75 – Nebraskans for Civic Reform (March 1, 2017)
- Legislative Bill 75
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.
- Editorial: Legislature Missed Chance on LB75, Lincoln Journal Star (May 15, 2017)
- Ex-felon voting bill dead after lawmakers fail to override veto, JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star (May 8, 2017)
- Op-Ed: Restoring felon voting rights is constitutional, overdue, Dianna Schimek, Lincoln Journal Star (May 3, 2017)
- Ricketts vetoes bill to restore voting rights to felons sooner, Joe Duggan, Omaha World-Herald (April 28, 2017)
- Lawmakers pass bill to restore felons’ voting rights sooner, but it’s unclear whether Ricketts will sign or veto it, Joe Duggan, Omaha World Herald (April 24, 2017)
- Op-Ed: Guest column: A vote for all is a vote for safety, Diane Kincaid, Lincoln Journal Star (Apr 22, 2017)
- Committee advances bill to allow immediate voting rights to felons, JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star (Mar. 1, 2017)
- Bill would restore voting rights immediately for felons who served their time, JoAnne Young, Lincoln Journal Star (Jan. 5, 2017)
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 email@example.com.