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Voting Rights: Nevada Lawmakers Vote To Reenfranchise Felons

May 27, 2019 12:25 p.m.

Voting rights activists secured a big win in Nevada, where the legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would automatically restore the voting rights of ex-felons. It is expected to be signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak and would go into effect on July 1. The bill, which is retroactive, is expected to restore the franchise for some 77,000 Nevadans.

Nevada legislators also passed a bill that would have the state join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, where states pledge to award their Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, rather than the popular vote of the state itself. Sisolak has not signaled whether he will sign the bill, but if he does, Nevada will be the 15th state to join the compact and it will have 195 electoral votes total among members. Once the compact has 270 electoral votes, it kicks in, and will in effect end the Electoral College.

After undermining the Florida ballot initiative giving ex-felons the right to vote — by passing a bill requiring they pay back all fines, including administrative fees, first — the Florida legislature also passed legislation that will keep confidential voter records related to felon re-enfranchisement. Supporters say it will protect the ex-cons who register to vote from being singled out and harassed, but it will also make it harder to track the effect the ballot initiative has.

The fallout continues from the recent revelation that voter data networks of two Florida counties were successfully targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. Much is still not known about the cyberattack — as the FBI has barred Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and others from revealing which two counties were attacked. (One of them, Washington County in Florida’s pan handle, has been identified by the Washington Post.) But DeSantis on Wednesday initiated a state review of the cyber security of Florida’s election systems. DeSantis’ order comes after the Florida legislature repeatedly rebuffed state election officials’ request for funding to beef up their cyber security efforts.

The Washington Post on Friday published an investigation into how the new Tennessee law targeting voter registration drives came to be. What the report found was that local election officials did face a significant challenge in vetting thousands of voter applications submitted before the 2018 midterm. However, WaPo also reported that state legislators, who never formally investigated the level irregularities on the forms, exaggerated or made unsubstantiated statements about the threat of fraud from the voter registration drives. The law is now the target of two separate lawsuits.

As we wait for the Supreme Court’s decisions later this summer in two partisan gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Maryland, the court on Friday temporarily paused lower court decisions in partisan gerrymandering cases in Ohio and Michigan, where the states were ordered to redraw the maps before the 2020 elections. The move, which had public dissents, was not a surprise, and if the court rules in the North Carolina and Maryland cases in a way that lets the Ohio and Michigan decisions to stand, there will be plenty of time to let the redrawing of the maps go forward.

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