Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights for Some Felons

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Beshear restores voting rights to some felons.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on Tuesday signed an executive order restoring voting rights to most felons in state in an action that he said will affect some 180,000 people. Once felons have completed their sentences, including any probation or parole, and have made court-mandated restitution, they will have their rights automatically restored as long as they have no additional cases pending, Beshear said. Steve Beshear said in a statement that the Capitol Education Center will carry the first lady’s name because it wouldn’t exist without her foresight and drive. Kentucky is one of only four states, along with Iowa, Florida, and Virginia, which disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions even after completion of sentence. The facility promotes Kentucky government, geography and energy conservation, and Beshear said it represents his wife’s “commitment to education and the people of Kentucky.” The energy efficient center is insulated with recycled denim and includes a viewing platform on the roof with solar panels, a wind turbine and a rooftop garden.

Now, Beshear said, the Department of Corrections will make the determination. “The old system is unfair,” Beshear said. “It’s counterproductive. Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, said: “In issuing this executive action Governor Beshear has demonstrated bold and necessary leadership. Leaders of both parties are acknowledging that we imprison too many people for too long, and do not provide adequate opportunities for people to reintegrate into society — rather than recidivate — after they leave incarceration. The group called the announcement “an incredible breakthrough in the movement to end criminal disenfranchisement policies nationwide.” The governor is acting just two weeks before he’ll leave office. Those who have already completed their sentence will have to submit a form to get their vote back. “The right to vote and the right to hold office are fundamental foundations of our democracy,” Beshear said. “Yet in Kentucky, it is estimated that we deny those rights to over 180,000 thousand adults.

That’s because if you vote, you tend to be more engaged in society.” The outgoing Democratic governor, speaking to reporters in the state capital, said the order does not cover those convicted of violent, sex-related, bribery or treason crimes. The issue has long been debated in Kentucky as the state House of Representatives, controlled by the Democrats, has passed a restoration bill 10 times in the last nine years only for it to die in the Republican-controlled Senate. The most extreme states restrict voting rights even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole; such individuals in those states make up approximately 45 percent of the entire disenfranchised population.

We ignore the fact that they have paid for their crimes.” Mantell Stevens, a delivery driver in Lexington who was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance about 15 years ago, said the decision was a big step for democracy. He plans to submit for restoration as soon as possible. “To be able to have that power – to be able to vote – it’s tremendous,” he said. “We did the easy part. Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul, had pushed state lawmakers in recent years to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would restore felon voting rights. Now the hard part is actually getting people to the polls.” Stevens, who served 30 days in jail and three years on probation, said he has attempted to have his voting rights restored in the past but found the old process tough to navigate. Stevens said he now looks forward to leading by example. “There are so many issues in my community that so many people are affected by, but people don’t get out and speak up on it,” he said.

Yet, there is much more work to do, both in Kentucky and other states, to allow the full democratic participation of all citizens.” By submitting a comment you consent to our rules. Officials working on his transition issued a statement Tuesday saying that they were notified of the order only a few minutes before the announcement and were not provided a copy until after Beshear’s press conference. “The executive order will be evaluated during the transition period,” the statement read. Studies have shown that individuals who vote are more likely to give to charity, volunteer, attend school board meetings, serve on juries and are more actively involved in their communities.” But the proposal has faced opposition in the Senate, where critics have pushed for a waiting period and want to reduce the types of felons who would be eligible.

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