Nebraska bill removing voting rights restoration waiting period for people convicted of a felony passes without governor’s signature

On April 17, 2024, Nebraska’s LB 20 became law without the signature of Gov. Jim Pillen (R). The bill changes the timeline for restoring voting rights to people convicted of a felony by removing a two-year waiting period after the completion of a sentence before rights are restored. Under the new law, voting rights are restored to an individual convicted of a felony immediately upon the completion of their sentence, including prison time, parole, and probation. The new law will take effect before the November election.

The bill passed the Nebraska State Senate 38-6 on April 11. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. Gov. Pillen allowed the bill to become law by taking no action on it for five days after it passed the legislature, writing, “The Attorney General and the Secretary of State have identified significant potential constitutional infirmities regarding the bill. These issues relate to LB20’s compliance with several provisions of the Nebraska Constitution, including, but not limited to, Article II, Section 1, Article IV, Section 13, and Article VI, Section 2. … I will allow LB20 and LB20A to become law with neither my signature nor my endorsement of LB20’s constitutional validity.”

According to Clerk of the Legislature Brandon Metzler, it was the first time a Nebraska governor had allowed a bill to become law without signature since 2001, when former Gov. Mike Johanns (R) did so. 

On April 18, KETV Omaha reported that Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) and Attorney General Mike Hilgers (R) are challenging the new law.

Before the adoption of the new law, Nebraska was the only state to require a waiting period after the completion of a sentence before automatically restoring voting rights.

Fourteen other states restore voting rights automatically upon completion of a felony sentence, including prison time, parole, and probation. One state does so after the completion of prison time and parole, and 22 states automatically restore voting rights after the completion of a prison sentence. In two states, Maine and Vermont, people convicted of a felony always retain the right to vote. In the remaining 10 states, voting rights are not automatically restored.