By John Sadler
Former inmate Ora Watkins registers to vote on the effective date of Assembly Bill 431 at the First AME Church Monday, July 1, 2019. The bill restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals automatically once they are released from prison.
In an out of jail, Ora Watkins said she hasn’t voted in more than a decade because of how difficult it was for felons in Nevada to regain their voting rights.
The state Legislature changed that this year, passing a law that automatically gives felons the right to vote after their release from prison. “I’m almost 60, but I feel like the doors have been opened for me,” Watkins said today, moments after registering to vote.
Watkins registered at an event in North Las Vegas marking the new law that went into effect today. State officials including Attorney General Aaron Ford and Assembly members Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, and William McCurdy, D-Las Vegas, attended the event.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas and the sponsor of the bill, was not there but spoke via a prerecorded video.
Passage of the bill sends a message “that we don’t believe in giving up on people; we don’t believe in throwaway citizens,” he said. “We believe in second chances.”