Ky.'s backward policy on ex-felon voting

Ky. disenfranchises too many citizens

July 17, 2012 

Each election season, responsible citizens loudly bemoan — as they should — low voter turnout.

In the Kentucky primary this May, only 14 percent of registered voters exercised their privilege.

Equally discouraging — but more easily remedied — is that a huge number of Kentuckians did not even have that privilege.

As a report issued by the Sentencing Project last week confirms, Kentucky remains one of the most backward states when it comes to restoring voting rights to felons who have paid their adjudicated debt to society.

We are one of only six states in which more than 7 percent of the population is disenfranchised as a result of felony convictions. Among black Americans, that climbs to 22 percent.

Contrast that to neighboring Indiana where less than 1 percent of the voting age population is disenfranchised for felony convictions and 7.8 percent of blacks.

Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that doesn't restore voting privileges even after a person has served time and been released from probation or parole.

Under the Kentucky constitution, ex-felons can only regain voting rights by petitioning the governor individually.

For several years, the Democrat-controlled Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill to place an amendment on the ballot that would automatically restore voting rights for all but the most serious criminals once they have served their sentences or been released from probation or parole.

Each of those bills has died in the Senate where Republicans set them aside without a hearing.

That's just another example of the cynical march by some right-wing elements to pick and choose who gets to vote in this country.

Voting is the most basic privilege of citizenship, it is what holds a democracy together. We don't take to the streets in violent protest when we lose an election because we had a say and will again.

It's in everyone's interest for people who have committed crimes and served their time to rejoin society. But the chances of that happening are reduced when they are excluded from this most basic right.

Opinion polls consistently show that people favor restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time. It's time for the Kentucky Senate to get that message.

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