By: Eleyse D’Andrea
Criminals have been stripped of their rights – including the right to vote – throughout history. The revocation of voting rights, known as disenfranchisement, can be traced as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilization. European colonists carried the concept of disenfranchisement to America, and it has prevailed in modern times despite various challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the disenfranchisement of convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution in 1974, and several years later found that a disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional only with evidence of purposeful racial discrimination. This decision gave states like Nebraska the right to permanently disenfranchise convicted criminals. Although Nebraska originally had one of the harshest disenfranchisement laws – a lifetime ban for ex-felons – a bill passed in 2005 provides automatic restoration of voting rights to felons two years after completion of felony sentence.