Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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Guest column:

A checkered past should not deny Americans their voice

Imagine what it would be like to turn a new leaf in your own life, re-establishing yourself in society and still be denied the fundamental rights that come with being a full and thriving citizen.

Unfortunately, this happens every day in several states that restrict voting access for citizens convicted of crimes. States like Arizona and Tennessee set restrictions based on the severity of the crime that was committed, while other states like Virginia and Iowa permanently disenfranchise individuals who have made past transgressions.

Make It Work Nevada believes that voting is a right for all Americans, and one of the most important ways to be engaged is to vote.

We are proud that our state legislators share this sentiment. With the passage of Assembly Bill 431, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, some 77,000 formerly incarcerated Nevadans now have their right to vote restored.

So what does that mean for Nevadans? It means we have strengthened democracy in the Battle Born State. We’re showing the entire nation that we value our residents and believe that people deserve to have their constitutional rights restored.

It also means that we don’t believe in silencing the voices of the formerly incarcerated. Most importantly, it means we reject the idea of past transgressions being the sum of someone’s whole life. Civic engagement makes our communities stronger and better.

More literally, the passage of this legislation means that formerly incarcerated persons can:

• Vote

• Serve on a jury (in civil action trials, following six years from their discharge of probation or monitoring they can serve as a juror in criminal action trials)

• Hold elected office (following four years from their discharge of probation or monitoring)

Having the right to vote is a sacred and treasured right for all Americans. We are thrilled with the passage of this legislation because it means we’ll have more people engaged in the process of making life for hardworking Nevadans a little bit better.

To register to vote online, visit registernevada.org and complete the form so that you can make your voice heard in 2020, and beyond.

Erika Washington is the executive director of Make It Work Nevada, a nonprofit advocacy organization focusing on social equality, and family and workplace issues.