Nevada Assembly OK’s bill restoring felons’ rights
April 22, 2003
The Nevada Assembly voted 32-10 Monday for a bill automatically restoring felons’ rights to vote and run for office once they’re honorably discharged from their sentences.
AB337, which passed with no floor discussion, allows felons to use their discharge papers as proof of their rights. Currently, felons must petition courts to restore their rights, which Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani termed a burdensome process.
Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said earlier that Nevada would be following a national trend in easing the restoration process. She said 38 states have automatic restoration of voting rights, and others allow prison inmates to vote.
Another provision in the bill allows felons to serve on juries two years after they’re honorably discharged from their sentence.
Law enforcement officials had concerns about felons sitting on juries because they might be less likely to send someone else to prison. Lawmakers compromised by providing for a two-year delay in juror service.
Several members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill, questioned the automatic restoration of the right to hold office, and suggested the Legislature might consider stronger qualifications for officeholders.
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But most panel members felt it was appropriate to leave the decision of a candidate’s qualifications up to the voters.
“Boy, I’d like a felon to run against me,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. “That would be an easier election.”
Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said he thought the bill went too far, especially considering the high rates of recidivism that accompany certain types of crimes.
“A four-year delay on all of it would probably have been appropriate,” Beers said after the vote, adding he’s known several people who embezzled money, and only one of them has stopped doing so.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.