ACLU: Democracy Tarnished in the Silver State

From ACLU Nevada
Jun 17th, 2011
Posted by Rebecca Gasca, ACLU of Nevada & Nicole Kief, ACLU

We had hoped that, amidst a sea of restrictive voting initiatives across the country, Nevada would be a beacon of light. But today, with a stroke of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s pen, the Silver State jumped on the voter suppression bandwagon.

Right now in Nevada, if you’re convicted of a felony, good luck figuring out how to get your voting rights back. The state’s absurdly complicated and overly punitive voter disfranchisement law bars an estimated 43,000 people with felony convictions from voting. (Across the country, these laws keep more than 5 million people out of the political process.)

If you get your hands on a copy of the ACLU of Nevada’s brochure (which needs two full pages to explain Nevada’s policy), you’ll learn that some people get their rights back when they finish their sentences, while others have to petition their courts of conviction for restoration. Those with federal convictions need — wait for it — presidential pardons in order to vote again.

Recognizing this mess, the legislature passed a bill to simplify and improve the state’s law, but Gov. Sandoval has just vetoed it. So much for expanding democracy.

Not only is Nevada’s disfranchisement law undemocratic, it’s a voter registrar’s nightmare. Indeed, when the ACLU of Nevada surveyed the 17 county clerk offices around the state, we found that not a single elections employee was able to provide a comprehensive answer to the question of whether people who had completed their felony sentences could vote.

If even the highly capable individuals charged with administering Nevada’s election laws are unable to comprehend all of the law’s twists and turns, how can we expect the voting public to understand it?

And it’s not just the ACLU and our ally the Brennan Center for Justice who recognize the need for change. In fact, the head of the American Probation and Parole Association testified that “full civic participation by citizens living in our community protects public safety…restoring the right to vote sends the message that ex-offenders are welcome as integral members of their home communities and helps invest them in our democracy.”

Shame on you, Gov. Sandoval. Investing people in our democracy is something we should all be able to get behind.

AB 136 vetoed by Sandoval: no help for non-violent prisoners

From LVRJ (Ed Vogel, June 16th 2011):

–Assembly Bill 136, which would have allowed certain felons to earn credits to reduce their sentences by acquiring vocational skills and passing drug treatment programs. Violent and sex offender would have been excluded. Nineteen of the 26 Republicans opposed the bill.

Sandoval said the bill would allowed “dangerous criminals to be prematurely released from prison” and increased the risk of Nevada citizens. He added the bill sent a message to offenders that the state was “soft on crime.”

–Senate Bill 188, which would have allowed prison wardens to establish 84-hour work schedules for correctional officers in each two-week pay period. Employees would have worked 12-hour shifts, three days one week, four the next. The prison employees union has been seeking these shifts for several years.

The governor said prison wardens already have the authority to experiment with variable work schedule, and 12-hour shifts have been considered.

“Senate Bill 188 unnecessarily encroaches upon managerial authority in an agency facing unique employment challenges and severe budgetary restraints,” Sandoval said.

Every senator, including 10 Republicans, voted for the bill, while 12 of the 16 Assembly Republicans opposed it.

Since most of the governor’s vetoes were made after the close of the Legislature at 1 a.m. June 7, votes by the Legislature to override his vetoes will not be made until the next session in 2013.

Before adjournment, legislative leaders decided not to conduct override votes on four vetoed bills. That means those bills officially are dead.
Soft on crime? Nevada? This Bill was supposed to even exclude violent offenders. Has Gov Sandoval ever spoken with those who have been wrongly convicted? Or those who are stuck for years on end in a box with nothing to better themselves with? And does the governor think that people who committed a violent offense will rehabilitate themselves, be cured, be forgiven?

This Bill was even meant for those who have been convicted of a non-violent crime!

The risk to the Nevada citizens is that the people inside prisons are NOT reformed, are NOT able while inside to create a life away from joblessness, desperation, illnesses that are not (being) cured. Governor Sandoval creates more dangerous situations himself, plus those who opposed this bill.

Dear People, wake up and embrace those inside of good will and who want to be reformed, who ask for a change and who are willing to change. Punishing a person is not something we should do or tolerate for the rest of their lives. They must be reformed and cured and healed and returned to us. we must create the right environment here, and not wait ’til it is too late (when hatred has grown too much, or when death has arrived).

And for those inside on false convictions, false testimony, false witnesses, because of over-eager prosecutors, snitches, corrupt servants, surely there must come a day soon when this nightmare is over!

In strength, with Human decency and dignity…

Governor vetoes audit for costs of death penalty in Nevada

Sandoval’s veto tally at 10 bills
By Ed Vogel
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Posted: Jun. 8, 2011

CARSON CITY — As the Legislature was rushing to adjourn at 1 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Brian Sandoval was doing what he has done with increasing regularity during the legislative session: vetoing bills.

Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 501, which would have required an audit on the costs of the death penalty …

In vetoing the death penalty audit, Sandoval said he was not convinced it would be a fair audit.

“The bill, for example, lists the costs to be assessed in determining the overall fiscal impact of the imposition of the death penalty, but it does not specify how it is these costs will be assessed,” the governor said.

Sandoval, a former state attorney general and federal judge, said that death row inmates make “individualized litigation choices” that drive up the costs of their cases.

Nearly 80 prisoners are on Nevada’s death row in the Ely State Prison.

Almost all Republican legislators voted against the two bills.

Read the rest and the pieces inbetween here.