Skip Navigation
Resource

Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Nebraska

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

Published: 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.