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Editorial: Nebraska lawmakers must end needless penalty for former inmates
Voting Rights

Editorial: Nebraska lawmakers must end needless penalty for former inmates

Once a Nebraskan completes his or her prison sentence or probation for a felony, that person becomes eligible for all obligations of citizenship — paying taxes, for example. The former inmate also becomes eligible for all rights — with one exception.

The person must wait two years before being allowed to vote. A 2005 Nebraska law set that arbitrary delay. It is an unjustified administrative obstruction, and it needs to be removed.

When a man or woman has fulfilled the court-ordered penalties, it is only fair that the full range of rights be restored to that individual. Nebraska’s two-year delay for re-enfranchisement — a delay stemming entirely from a political compromise by state senators in 2005 — is an unjust added penalty.

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha is sponsoring Legislative Bill 158 to end the delay. His bill merits passage.

In past debates on this issue, supporters of the two-year delay have raised a false issue. Immediate restoration of enfranchisement, they say, doesn’t reduce chances the person will reoffend.

But recidivism isn’t the issue. The actual issue is straightforward: The court set the penalty, the individual has fulfilled it, and now that person deserves full respect as a free man or woman.

That respect includes the ability to cast a ballot, without delay. LB 158 deserves approval this session, to ensure that principle of fairness.

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