Press Release

Groups Applaud Nebraska Lawmakers’ Elimination of Post Sentence Voting Rights Ban

Nebraska lawmakers approved Legislative Bill 20 - which eliminates the two year period eligible residents who complete felony sentences must wait before registering to vote. The bill restores voting rights to over 7,000 Nebraskans.

Related to: Voting Rights

Lincoln, Nebraska – Today, Nebraska lawmakers approved  Legislative Bill 20 – which eliminates the two year period eligible residents who complete felony sentences must wait before registering to vote. The bill restores voting rights to over 7,000 Nebraskans.

“The Sentencing Project applauds the Nebraska Legislature for expanding voting rights to eligible residents who complete their felony sentence,” said Nicole D. Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project. “Expanding voting rights can be  linked to a reduced likelihood that an individual will commit another crime. While there is more work to be done, this bill is a significant step in the right direction.”

Nebraska’s two-year waiting period was passed into law in 2005, as the result of a legislative compromise to end the state’s lifetime disenfranchisement law. Prior to that, a full pardon was required to get one’s voting rights restored.

This legislation continues to build on national momentum to guarantee voting rights for people  with felony convictions across the country. Since 1997, 26 states and the District of Columbia have expanded voting rights to people living with felony convictions, allowing more than 2 million eligible residents to regain their right to vote.

“I advocated for Nebaraska to end the waiting period when I was disenfranchised after incarceration,” said Shakur Abdullah, a Nebraska resident who was released from prison in 2016 after serving 41 years of a life sentence. “I celebrate the victory of LB20 but the fight continues for those who remain disenfranchised in Nebraska. I am African-American and my family came to Nebraska from Mississippi. I have an obligation to those whose shoulders I stand on, who got me to the point where I can walk into a polling place and not have anything happen to me. I owe it to them to exercise my right.”

Restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions is also supported by a majority of the public. Polling from Lake Research Partners found that a majority of voters (56%) would support a law guaranteeing the eligibility to vote for all citizens 18 and older, including citizens completing their sentence, both inside and outside of prison.

Despite the passage of LB 20, Demetrius Gatson is among the more than 10,000 people in Nebraska who are still unable to vote because they haven’t completed their sentences. Because of her parole, Ms. Gatson will have to wait until 2030 to vote.

“While I applaud the passage of LB 20, there are thousands of justice-impacted residents who are still unable to vote,” said Demetrius Gatson, founder of Nebraska’s Q.U.E.E.N.S. Butterfly House. “For the people I work with who are eligible, registering to vote provides a sense of acceptance, especially when there are so many barriers to housing and employment.”

Many of the laws banning people with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system from voting are rooted in reconstruction-era policies which were explicitly designed to deny the right to vote to Black and Brown people, including poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and cross burnings. As a result of these outdated policies, over 4.4 million Americans with a felony conviction were disenfranchised as of 2022, disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx Americans.

About The Sentencing Project
The Sentencing Project advocates for effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

About Q.U.E.E.N.S. Butterfly House
Founded in 2023, Nebraska’s Queens Butterfly House is on a Quest to Understand, Educate, and Empower Noble Sistahs (the underserved, formerly incarcerated women population) to thrive through healthy relationships, collaborative communities, supportive housing, job readiness, and personal development to becoming the best version of themselves.

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