Felons Should Complete Sentences Before Getting to Vote

Kevin Dietrich

Nevada elections are conducted in dramatically different fashion from just three years ago.

From sending unsolicited mail ballots to residents to eliminating the requirement for many voters to produce identification, legislators have thrown out decades of accepted electoral practice since 2019.

One change involved the immediate restoration of voting rights to Nevadans convicted of felonies.

Assembly Bill 431, which went into effect on July 1, 2019, restored the rights of ex-convicts who have been released from incarceration. The restoration of voting rights is automatic and immediate upon release from prison, regardless of the category of felony committed or whether the individuals is still on parole or probation.

Previously, felons had their right to vote restored two years after being discharged from probation, parole or release from prison, and only then if they hadn’t been convicted of specific felonies involving use of force or violence.

The 2019 change permitted approximately 77,000 individuals to cast ballots who would have been barred previously.

It’s not unreasonable to restore voting rights to convicted felons once they’ve fulfilled the terms of their sentences. What’s less understandable is giving felons the opportunity to vote while they’re on probation or parole.

Probation is levied as an alternative to time behind bars, often in lieu of a prison sentence. Parole is a conditional release from prison in which individuals are overseen by a state’s correctional system. In both instances, individuals must adhere to strict rules during their periods of probation or parole, or they risk being incarcerated.

A point of contention in allowing those on probation or parole to vote is they have not finished paying their debt to society. According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right, and there are groups which advocate for all felons, whether incarcerated or not, to be allowed to vote.

But failure to adhere to society’s rules and regulations has long been recognized as justifiable cause to remove an individual from the voting rolls. Being a citizen comes with rights, but it also comes with responsibilities, such as obeying the law.

Some might argue that this is low-priority issue, particularly given that ex-felons tend to vote in low numbers. But it’s yet another example of the widespread revisions enacted to state voting laws during the past three years – changes that have helped give Nevada some of the laxest voting regulations in the nation.

The sweeping changes may have made it far easier for individuals to vote in Nevada, but they have also made it far easier for bad actors to attempt to manipulate the system. And anything that erodes Nevadans’ confidence in their electoral process is a bad thing.

Kevin Dietrich

Kevin Dietrich

Kevin Dietrich joined Nevada Policy in 2022.

He has more than 20 years of experience in communications, including serving as the director of communications and marketing for the South Carolina Bankers Association, working as a speechwriter for South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and assisting with internal communications for CVS Caremark.

Kevin graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in Journalism and a minor in History. A fifth-generation Californian, he spent a decade as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, New York, New Hampshire and South Carolina.