Gov. Pete Ricketts has vetoed a bill that would have restored voting rights to ex-felons upon completion of their sentence.Under current law, convicted felons can vote two years after completing their criminal sentence.
The Legislature approved the bill – LB 75 – on Tuesday, April 25. The vote was 27 in favor, 13 opposed and 9 not voting.
Ricketts vetoed the bill two days later.
On Tuesday, Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha filed a motion to override the governor’s veto.
“It is a disgrace to think that we would continue to deny taxpayers the right to vote,” Wayne said. “I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many who have made a mistake, want to return to their homes, and contribute to their communities by getting jobs and paying taxes.”
Wayne said voting is a fundamental right, and added, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.”
In the veto, Ricketts said, “While the rehabilitation of criminals is an important goal of the criminal justice system, the immediate restoration of voting rights is not the answer.”
“Nebraskans are kind-hearted and do not wish to permanently punish convicted felons,” Ricketts said. “The distinction, however, between the restoration of rights versus privileges must be noted.”
Ricketts said the Legislature may restore certain privileges, such as driving, to convicted felons, but the Legislature goes too far in trying to restore right. That power is reserved to the state board of pardons, under the state constitution, Ricketts said.
When asked about the veto, Wayne said, “I am shocked to hear that in 2017, we are still fighting for basic fundamental rights such as voting. The governor’s action reminds my community of the policies enacted in the 1860s by many Southern states to create disenfranchisement laws. These laws specifically targeted African Americans and diminished the electoral strength of newly-freed populations.”