Op-Ed

Ky. Voices: Unfair for state to take away my right to vote

I'm a veteran of nine years in the U.S. Army infantry. My dad was in the military and I grew up on army bases. Both my grandfathers served in the military, too.

But despite my service and more, I do not have the right to vote here in Kentucky, one of just four states that take away voting rights from all former felons even after they've served their debt to society.

I pay taxes, but I'm not represented. Effectively, I'm not a citizen because citizenship means having a voice in government through the ballot box. It just doesn't seem right to me.

I lived in Illinois for the last few years, working as a deputy voter registrar for the board of elections in Illinois, helping people register and vote. When I lived there I could vote.

My parents aren't doing so well, so I'm back in Kentucky to take care of them and help around the house. Because I'm on this side of the border of Illinois, I can't vote.

House Bill 70, to allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights for most former felons upon completion of their sentence, passed the House 78-18 on Feb. 16 and has not, so far, been called by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The most recent of my two felony convictions is more than 14 years old, and neither of them is from Kentucky. In fact, if I lived in either of those states, they recognize that I've served my debt to society and I could vote there.

I talked to a few different lawyers here and I got conflicting answers. Frankly, I could have gotten away with registering and voting because Kentucky would be unlikely to compare lists with other states. But credibility is important to me, so I spent a lot of effort to understand whether or not I have the right to vote here. It seems I don't.

I served my country, with due respect, more than any legislator I see that's standing in the way of this legislation. And I served my time for what I've done wrong, too. The right thing to do would be to let me and others like me vote.

It renders moot the idea that "if you don't vote, you can't complain." I'm complaining because I can't vote.

I can join in politics in other ways — and I do because it's important to me. But not being able to vote certainly does make it harder.

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