Bill to restore felon voting rights moves forward

Sponsor remains optimistic

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The sponsor of a bill amending the Kentucky Constitution to restore voting rights for felons convicted of most crimes remains cautiously optimistic of its chances after a House committee advanced the measure Tuesday.

House Bill 70 would immediately allow people convicted of felonies other than rape, sodomy, sexual intercourse with a minor or intentional murder to vote in state elections after their sentence, parole or probation expired. The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee approved the bill 

8-0, with Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, voting “pass.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, goes to the House floor, where similar legislation has fared well in the past. Last year, the House passed Crenshaw’s HB 70 by a 75-26 vote, but the bill was not heard in a Senate committee.

Crenshaw, who has championed the issue for years and will not seek re-election this fall, said his fingers are crossed in hopes the Senate will consider HB 70 during his final session as a member of the General Assembly.

Kentucky is one of a few states that bar ex-felons from voting, and the nonprofit advocacy group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth estimated in a report last year that more than 180,000 residents who’ve completed felony sentences are not permitted to vote.

“I think if it will arrive in the Senate and be called in committee and called on the floor, I think it has a good chance of passage,” Crenshaw said after the committee’s vote. “And I think the voters of Kentucky, if it’s placed on the ballot as this would require, then I think the voters will be in favor because it’s a matter of fairness.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the issue is being discussed and has generated some intrigue, but it’s unclear at this point whether there’s broad support in his chamber to move forward at all, let alone in a particular direction.

“What process will this take? How will it affect individuals who have violent, nonviolent, sexual, nonsexual convictions, convictions of fraud or theft?” Stivers said later Tuesday. “… It’s more, I think, an idea of process and competing processes than it is about whether they should or should not get it, when they complete their restoration of civil rights when at some point in time they become eligible.”

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky said allowing ex-felons to vote only with a gubernatorial pardon was “reasonable” when the state Constitution was written, but governors today could spend the entirety of their terms reviewing and approving applications to restore voting rights “if the thousands of eligible ex-offenders” made such requests given advances in both the prison system and criminal offenses.

“Rather than rely on a process that is open to the arbitrary granting of voting rights to some former felons and not others by one governor or the next and rather than keeping in place a system that has led to the disenfranchisement of more than 200,000 persons, Kentucky voters will have the opportunity to put in place a process that has bright lines,” Delahanty said.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, spoke in favor of the bill during Tuesday’s committee meeting, his first appearance before a House panel testifying for the restoration of felon voting rights, Crenshaw said.

Hoover, a co-sponsor of HB 70, echoed the comments by Crenshaw and Delahanty on the fairness of withholding a person’s right to vote once his or her debt has been repaid to society.

“I think we are a forgiving people, and when folks have carried out what the courts have imposed upon them in the form of probation or parole or their sentence, I just think it’s a matter of fairness that they be allowed to return the right to vote,” Hoover said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has also thrown his weight behind the measure, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Paul expressed his support for the proposal to several Kentucky lawmakers and expects to promote the legislation to a state Senate committee, Paul spokesman Daniel Bayens said Tuesday.

“A government of, by and for the people is only possible with a free right to vote,” Paul said in a statement. “I am committed to securing this right for the people of the commonwealth.”

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  • Well thought out and written, pitchfork!

  • Mr. rogerclegg,

             Do you have any idea the depressive state of mind that a young non-violent felon faces day to day in this supposedly forgiving society? Have you any idea how it feels to apply for a job, and be perfectly honest on the application; have the skills the employer is seeking only to be looked down upon because of a mistake you made? And let’s not forget that a simple drug conviction can affect the low income individual of any ethnic background seeking grants to attend a community college to better themselves for three years I believe is the grace period before they can even apply for said grants or student loans for that matter.
         

         It is as though today the non-violent felons are treated as non-citizens like those of the Greek or Roman Empire which our federal government seems to being mirroring. With the latest report that there are more millionaires in the Senate and Congress it’s no wonder there’s a push against receding or doing away with restrictions on voting rights of felons of the non-violent status here in Kentucky. If I was Mitch McConnell I’d be afraid too and I’m a Republican.

         Non-violent felons as homosapien has pointed out are primarily made up of minorities and that simple FACT is there is nothing being offered to discourage them from offending again like a grace time for total forgiveness of mistakes made, or forgiveness of the nature of that crime upon successful completion of an imposed sentence. Sellus Wilder got a free pass with an Alford Plea of a DUI and a majority of people in this town know why he got it and know why he wanted that plea. And in that, since he was so transparent, is why he got voted out.

         Honest people who have made a mistake in their life will admit it, but as long as there are individuals who look down on those individuals and not look past their infractions repeat offensives will happen for no other reason but of monetiery support for the lack of forgiveness this so called modern society claims to embrace or promote. I know firsthand what individuals face for non-violent felony convictions and the ridicule that comes with that form of branding an individual as a FELON.

         So keep your so called voice of reasoning and rational thinking that tears away at the very foundation of the Constitution that gives rights to ALL. I’ll support a person trying to show honest carrying American values over the totalitarian views every time. You are no better than me. You might be better off but you certainly are no better. 

         I read your manifesto and I am disgusted with whoever wrote it as reasons to not grant felons the right to vote back. If I was you I’d inform the author of that article not to use Greek or Roman foundations as a talking point. Those empires discriminated on a daily basis not to mention that you had to be a citizen even to speak in public let alone hold an office of government, or vote.

  • Homo, I know that you'll be surprised but I agree with most of your comments below and would go a little further. What's the cost of incarcerating all of these "criminals"? Billion$ and Billion$ in financial costs, and much more that's intangible.

  • Perhaps the most devasting impact of The War on Some Drugs Other Than Alcohol and Tobacco is the disenfranchisement of young black men who are stopped, frisked, arrested and incarcerated at much higher rates than their white counterparts. In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which, amongst other things, created a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for crack vs. powder cocaine possession, which some people consider to be a racist law which discriminates against minorities, who are more likely to use crack than powder cocaine.

    A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union determined that a black person in the United States was 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though both races have similar rates of marijuana use. Iowa had the highest racial disparity of the fifty states. Black people in Iowa were arrested for marijuana possession at a rate 8.4 times higher than white people.

    Today there are wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. African-Americans, who only comprised 13% of regular drug users, made up for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes. Nationwide African-Americans are sent to state prisons for drug offenses 13 times more often than white men, even though they only comprise 13% of regular drug users.

    At the very dark heart of this matter, the War on Some Drugs Other Than Alcohol and Tobacco is a thinly disguised War on Black People. It imprisons Black people, destroys Black families, fails to make Black communities safer and puts those caught up in it in a revolving door from prison to the streets where they find themselves marked for life by a criminal record, lack of opportunities, voter disenfranchisement and more than likely a return to breaking the law and returning to prison. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    It demonstrates perfectly the old adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” In each generation, new tactics have been used for achieving the same goals.  Our founding fathers shared these goals of denying Blacks citizenship as it was deemed essential to the formation of the original union. Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian democracy. The arguments and rationalizations that have been trotted out in support of racial exclusion and discrimination in its various forms have changed and evolved, but the outcome has remained largely the same. An extraordinary percentage of black men in the United States are legally barred from voting today, just as they have been throughout most of American history. They are also subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service, just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents once were.

    This bill is a small step in the right direction...do we have the wisdom and courage to pass it?

  • If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote.  The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison.  After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in.  Read more about this issue on our website here   [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement  ] and our congressional testimony here:  [ http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf ].

  •  Any criminal conviction raises doubt or integrity of one's character.  Under Kentucky law, anyone convicted of a felony can not vote until their civil rights have been restored.  Sometimes in one's youth they commit crimes that are inconsistent with their maturity.   And of course, I can understand why those with felony convictions that are considered violent in nature or involved sexual misconduct would not be allowed to vote under this proposed legislation.  Insofar as allowing convicted felons to vote despite past convictions would allow these individuals to be given another "chance" to prove that they have been rehabilitated and are ready to live a law-abiding life.  So why not approve the bill to allow ex-felons to vote who have not been convicted of violent offenses?  While a felony may be a "bar" to various rights, a positive advantage of this would be to keep those who are felons from returning to a life of crrime by not holding their past against them.  While allowing certain convicted felons to vote is the question, what remains to be seen is how will it be answered.    Judith La Rone Perkins, Jeffersontown, Ky.  40299

  • I knew that his conviction had been thrown out but was trying to make a funny;) Still seems like a corrupt politician to me but in all fairness, not a convicted felon so he can vote (and cater) for his daughter.

    Is "nefarious" your word of the month? last month I was usually a "racist" for disagreeing with anything you posted. This month I'm nefarious. I'm not sure if I've been promoted or not.

  • user_38106, January 15, 2014 10:56AM

    "Does this mean that Jerry Lundergen will get to vote for his daughter?"

     

    Poor 38106, he doesn't allow the facts to interfere with his nefarious attacks.  Fact is Jerry Lundergen is not a felon.  The story goes something like this from the Courier Journal:

    "In 1987, Lundergan forged another key friendship when he became one of the first legislators to endorse Wilkinson for governor over then-Lt. Gov. Beshear and former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.

    Wilkinson rewarded him with the party chairmanship, but that ended just 2 ½ months later when a state audit report raised questions about whether Lundergan had broken a state ethics law when he accepted a last-minute $150,000 contract to cater a state economic development event in Louisville.

    State law prohibits legislators from receiving no-bid state contracts. Lundergan argued that he only accepted to help state officials who were in a pinch with the fast-approaching conference.

    Lundergan was convicted of a felony and in the process resigned as both party chairman and state representative. That conviction, however, was thrown out when an appeals court ruled Lundergan's case should have been prosecuted as a misdemeanor. By that time, the statute of limitations had run out and he was never prosecuted again."

     

    And there is the real story!  It really wasn't that hard to find out the truth, but he seems to never bother to look!

  • pitchforkprotester, January 15, 2014 10:05AM

    "Non violent felons should have ALL their rights restored after successful completion of their sentence regardless of how they complete that sentence, period.

    And after a certain period of time that felony should be taken off their records. Non violent felons should not have to pay for that mistake the rest of their lives. There are good people out there and that mistake they made follows them for life and it prevents them for obtaining the American dream and shames them into submission under our laws. Yet illegals are over looked and given a pass and even rewarded for breaking our laws.

    Doesn't that seem a little backwards ?"

     

    You know, pitchforkprotester is right here!  The status quo is not only backward, it is bassackwards...draconian even.  Since we have filled our prisons with non-violent drug offenders, of whom an inordinately high percentage are minorities, we are losing a large block of voters who could help us turn around our state by voting the undeserving scoundrels out.  That is the reason that Representative Crenshaw is bringing this up.  Let's face it, as it stands now, Kentuckians are not terribly adept at kicking out guys like Mitch McConnell who have pillaged our state for yours.  Maybe this new block of voters will be able to deferentiate between the sizzle and the steak.

  • Does this mean that Jerry Lundergen will get to vote for his daughter?

  • Non violent felons should have ALL their rights restored after successful completion of their sentence regardless of how they complete that sentence, period.

    And after a certain period of time that felony should be taken off their records. Non violent felons should not have to pay for that mistake the rest of their lives. There are good people out there and that mistake they made follows them for life and it prevents them for obtaining the American dream and shames them into submission under our laws. Yet illegals are over looked and given a pass and even rewarded for breaking our laws.

    Doesn't that seem a little backwards ?

  • Owesome, that should pass.

     

    This should raise the Kentucky voter turnout to close to 100% because right now it hovers around 50 % due to the other 50 % who are felons not being allowed to vote....

  • ~~If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote.  The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison.  After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in.  Read more about this issue on our website here   [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement  ] and our congressional testimony here:  [ http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf ].

  • The majority of the people affected by this legislation did not vote prior to their criminal conviction. A pardon by the govenor is required to reinstate these rights, which is the way I feel it should remain. One thing is certain, the conviction rate for elected officials is on the rise which is why I suspect this is even being discussed.

  • I believe this is a good piece of legislation.  When felons of most crimes complete their sentences, they are penalized for the rest of their lives by not being able to vote in KY.  This is a fair law and I support it.  Hope it passes.

  • Why not, we are voting in criminals most of the time anyway. lol