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Record number of voters include lots of former felons

Among the already record-setting total of registered voters in Kentucky are 1,486 convicted felons who, after serving their sentences, have had their voting rights restored by Gov. Steve Beshear.

That figure — in Democrat Beshear's first 10 months in office — already is more than the 1,098 approved during former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher's four-year term, according to records kept by the Secretary of State's office.

Beshear's total puts him on pace to restore voting rights to nearly as many felons in four years as the 7,254 that former Democratic Gov. Paul Patton approved in eight years.

It's not yet known how many of those 1,486 have registered to vote or for which party. The deadline for any unregistered Kentucky citizen to sign up to vote in the Nov. 4 election is 4:30 p.m. Monday.

"When someone applies to have their voting rights restored, we don't ask whether they'll register as Republican or Democrat," said Beshear's spokeswoman Jill Midkiff.

Earlier this year, Beshear streamlined the process for those who have finished their sentence to apply to get back their right to vote. Beshear eliminated a fee and a mandated essay. Only Kentucky and Virginia require felons to seek the governor's approval for that right.

But Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson was skeptical of Beshear's motives.

"Certainly based on the actions of Steve Beshear to date and seeing how political he has been since becoming governor, I have to assume they're approaching this with a hope that these will be Democratic votes they can cultivate in elections," Robertson said.

But Midkiff said the intent all along has been to make it easier for those who have served their time to have the right to participate in the democratic process — a sentiment that was praised earlier this year by groups such as the Kentucky League of Women Voters, as well as lawmakers and Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson.