Tag Archives: voting rights

Ky. Gov. Beshear Restores Voting Rights to Over 170,000 Non-Violent Felons

Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who is set to leave office and hand over the governorship to Republican Matt Bevin next month, signed an executive order on Tuesday which will grant voting rights and the power to run for office to some non-violent felons who have completed their sentences.

The Brennan Center for Justice points out that “Kentucky was one of only three states — along with Florida and Iowa — to permanently bar citizens with past convictions from voting. But its constitution does grant the governor broad authority to restore voting rights.” The non-partisan public policy institute’s analysis of Beshear’s executive order found that it “will make it possible for more than 170,000 Kentucky citizens with past criminal convictions to get back their right to vote — an estimated 140,000 are immediately eligible to have their rights restored and another 30,000 will be over time.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, ex-offenders convicted of treason, violent crimes, sex offenses, and bribery are not eligible to have their voting rights restored under Beshear’s order.

[RELATED: DONEGAN: 46 Non-Violent Drug Inmates Freed, Thousands Upon Thousands Still Incarcerated]

The old system is unfair and counterproductive. We need to be smarter about our criminal justice system. Research shows that ex-felons who vote are less likely to commit crimes and [more likely] to be productive members of society,” said Gov. Beshear at a press conference announcing the executive order’s signing.

The Nation notes that Kentucky Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin, who will become governor next month and who could theoretically reverse Beshear’s order, supports the policy. Bevin commented on the subject during his failed 2013 campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying, “I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate that we would take from somebody something that could be restored to them, that the nation would be better to have them in possession of all their rights.

The executive order creates a rights restoration process not only for individuals who have already completed sentences for non-violent crimes, but also for those who will complete their sentences in the future.

[RELATED: Obama Praises Rand Paul, Koch Brothers in NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Speech]

Before today, all citizens with felony convictions [in Kentucky] had no hope for rights restoration unless they could personally persuade the governor to restore rights to them individually,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

VIDEO: How Partisan Primary Elections Violate Your Right to Vote

Whether you support political parties or not, one thing we should all agree on is that the public election process should serve voters.

Over the course of our history, voter discrimination has taken many forms. Today, both parties have engaged in a “voting rights” debate related to “voter access” and “voter fraud.” But rarely do we ask fundamental questions about the process itself, like why do our representatives seem to serve their party more than the voters in the first place?

The Independent Voter Project produced a short video explaining the power the two major parties have over the voting process in many states:

Note: This post originally published on IVN News on September 30, 2015.