- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - A bill to make it easier for nonviolent felons to regain their voting rights was approved Friday by a legislative committee in Wyoming.

The Joint Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the measure that would ultimately create an automatic process to restore the rights.

The full Legislature will consider the bill when it convenes early next year.

Under current law, people convicted of a single non-violent felony or a number of non-violent felonies stemming from the same event, must wait five years before applying to the state parole board for restoration of their voting rights.

The bill approved Friday calls for dropping the waiting period and streamlining the process.

Steve Lindly, deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, said his agency and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation would determine if a person is eligible to vote after a conviction.

The bill calls for the corrections department to issue certificates saying felons are eligible. After Jan. 1, 2016, the process would become automatic.

Committee Co-chairman Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, said it will be easy in the future for the corrections department to certify that people leaving custody or ending parole are eligible to vote.

He said it will remain necessary for a while for others to apply for certificates.

“While it’s a little more challenging, it seems the most appropriate way to work through it and give everybody a chance to get their rights back,” Christensen said.

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