Governor Vetoes Felon Voting Bill

Governor Dave Heineman has vetoed a bill that would automatically restore a felon's right to vote after completion of his or her sentence. The move sets up his first potential confrontation with the Unicameral.

The veto made Wednesday was Heineman's first since taking office in January, and it may also be his first to be overridden.

Lawmakers last week passed the bill (LB53) with five more votes than the 30 needed to override a veto. The measure's sponsor, Lincoln Sen. DiAnna Schimek, has said she will seek an override vote, which would be scheduled later.

The bill would automatically restore felons' right to vote two years after they get out of prison or finish terms of probation. Under current law, a pardon is required before a felon can vote again. Pardons aren't granted until at least 10 years after a sentence is completed.

Heineman had said prior to the bill's passing that he had concerns about the proposal and that he preferred the current system. The governor is one of three members of the Pardons Board, in addition to the attorney general and secretary of state.

In February a national study by The Sentencing Project estimated that 1.5 million felons nationwide have been denied voting rights, in large part because of a cumbersome process for restoration of the right.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia automatically restore voting rights to felons who complete their sentences. Maine and Vermont allow prisoners to vote. Fourteen states, including Nebraska, do not automatically restore voting rights.

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