Panel approves restoration of felons' rights in Nevada

An Assembly panel voted 12-3 Wednesday for a bill quickly restoring felons' rights to vote and run for public office in Nevada once they've completed their sentences.

AB337, originally intended to ease the process of petitioning to restore felons' rights, was amended by the Judiciary Committee to allow for automatic restoration by simply showing discharge papers.

The bill also allows felons to serve on juries two years after their release and eases state restrictions on registration requirements.

The committee discussed the measure for more than an hour before finally approving it.

A few legislators questioned the automatic restoration of the right to hold office, and suggested the Legislature might consider stronger qualifications for office-holders.

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," Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said. "That would be an easier election."

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, said people should have the right to participate in the democratic process once they've served their time. He said the right to hold office is almost as important as the right to vote.

On voting rights, Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, the bill's sponsor, said 38 states have automatic restoration of voting rights, and others allow prison inmates to vote.

Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, who cast one of the "no" votes on the bill, said she preferred having felons go through the state Pardons Board to have their rights restored.

Also discussed was a change requiring people convicted of three felonies to register with the state for the rest of their lives. Giunchigliani said Nevada is currently the only state that requires all felons to register.

Stan Olsen, a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said law enforcement likes having felons register because of the transient nature of the state.

The committee compromised by amending the bill to require registration if a person has committed two separate felonies.

Giunchigliani said limiting the registration to people with three felonies would still leave Nevada as the strictest state in the country on registration laws. She noted most states require only sex offenders to register.

Giunchigliani also said she compromised on delaying the right to serve on a jury by two years. District Attorneys Association lobbyist Ben Graham said prosecutors worried that people recently released from prison would be less likely to convict someone else.

AB337 now moves to the full Assembly for consideration.


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