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ACLU: Some agencies not complying with law to allow voting in Nevada jails

The law went into effect Jan. 1, but responses to a records request showed that many local jails were not in full compliance. ACLU is threatening to sue.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Criminal JusticeElection 2024Elections

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada is threatening to sue any local jail in the state that is not following a new Nevada law explicitly allowing inmates voting access after the organization’s review of jail policies found many are not complying with the law.

Athar Haseebullah, the organization’s executive director, told state legislators on Friday that the group will begin filing lawsuits on April 15 against all jails not complying with AB286, a bill passed last year that went into effect Jan. 1 and requires all county or city jails to update their policies to allow anyone detained to register or vote in an election. The deadline was set so that any litigation could be resolved ahead of the June primary elections.

Nevadans who have been convicted of a felony and remain in prison cannot vote, while those serving time in local jails for misdemeanors or who are detained awaiting a verdict have the right to vote if they are otherwise eligible.

The ACLU of Nevada recently filed records requests from all applicable jails — most notably the Clark County Detention Center and Washoe County Detention Facility — and found that many of them are not following the law, said Sadmira Ramic, the organization’s voting rights attorney. The alleged violations include:

  • 5 of the 12 responses either had no policies on voting or were not directly responsive to the legislation
  • 10 of the 12 responses had no procedures on how a voter detained in another county can vote (a requirement of the law)
  • 6 of the 12 responses had no policies for same-day voter registration (a requirement of the law)
  • 7 of the 12 responses had no mandates regarding the posting of voting information in prominent locations of the jail (a requirement of the law)

Ramic also said several jail policies had inaccurate information. For example, she referred to one jail policy that stated any felon with a conviction cannot vote, which is incorrect because the Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that restores the voting rights of convicted felons immediately upon their release from prison.

Mineral County’s response to the ACLU’s records request was only that it was monitoring the new legislation, Haseebullah said. The ACLU has offered to meet with officials to walk through the legislation, but some dismissed the offer, Haseebullah added.

“It just seems that there hasn't been the same level of diligence in implementation with respect to this bill as there have been with some of the other ones,” Haseebullah said at Friday’s meeting of the Joint Interim Standing Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, a group of state lawmakers that meets in between legislative sessions.

Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas), the chair of the committee, said he was “very troubled” by the apparent lack of compliance.

The Legislature passed AB286 in 2023 with near-unanimous support, with only three Assembly Republicans voting against the measure. It received the backing of the AFL-CIO, the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).

Nita Schmidt, a captain for the LVMPD, which oversees the Clark County Detention Center, told lawmakers on Friday that 23 people incarcerated there had voted in the state’s presidential preference primary last month. In Washoe County, 26 prisoners voted in the presidential preference primary, while one incarcerated person in Churchill County voted.


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