Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stand for Voting Rights - Call Kentucky State Senators Today

From Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:

Momentum is building for a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights in Kentucky, but your voice is needed now to move HB 70 forward in the state senate.

Please call the Legislative Message Line (1-800-372-7181) today. Ask to leave the following message for your state senator and all members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee:

“Make this the year to pass HB 70 and restore voting rights! This bill has strong support and deserves a vote in the Senate. Please oppose attempts to make voting harder or the bill more restrictive.”

“I am a Kentuckian. I have never seen the inside of a prison, but my right to vote has been taken away. I often wonder, how much is my community losing out because my voice and the voices of 240,000 others have been silenced in our democracy?”

– Mantell Stevens
The Legislative Message Line is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and until 6 p.m. on Fridays.

Thanks for taking action!


HB 70 is a state constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights to most former felons who have served their full sentence. Kentucky is one of a small handful of states (along with Florida and Iowa) that permanently takes away the right to vote from all people convicted of a felony, unless they receive a pardon from the Governor.

The bill recently passed the Kentucky House with a vote of 82-12, including strong support from Republicans and Democrats in that chamber. House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover spoke in favor of the bill in a committee hearing and on the House floor, saying that it is the “right thing to do.”

Former Republican representative Lonnie Napier also a spoke in favor of the bill at a voting rights rally at the Capitol. He reminded the audience that his father, who owned a general store in Garrard County, would allow local farmers to purchase goods on credit until they sold their tobacco crops in the fall. “When they came into his store to pay off their debts, he would stamp those receipts with the words, ‘Debt Paid in Full.’” Rep. Napier reminded the crowd that once a person has paid his or her debt to society, their punishment should cease and their rights should be restored. He also praised bill sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, for his persistence and leadership on voting rights issues in Kentucky.

More information:

An estimated 243,842 Kentuckians are barred from voting as of 2010 due to felony convictions, including 180,984 who have completed their sentences. The number of Kentuckians who have completed their sentence but lack the right to vote is bigger than the population of Bowling Green, KY’s 3rd largest city.

As a result Kentucky has among the highest African-American disenfranchisement rates in the country. One in five voting age African-American Kentuckians is not allowed to register to vote.

Thirty-nine states automatically restore voting rights to all people, although they do so at different points in the process. Of these, 19 restore voting rights when a person is off probation. In 13 states and the District of Colombia, the right to vote is restored when people are released from prison. In 5 states, the right to vote is restored after parole. And in two of these states the right to vote is never taken away.

The language of HB 70 is the result of a bi-partisan compromise reached in the Kentucky House 7 years ago. The bill automatically restores voting rights to most former felons upon completion of their full sentence. However, it preserves the existing case-by-case process for people who are convicted of murder, bribery in an election, or sex offenses. These exclusions mean that when HB 70 passes, Kentucky will move from 3 most restrictive states for felon voting rights to the next group of 8 very restrictive states.

HB 70 has passed the Kentucky House every year for the past 8 years (including 2014) with wide bipartisan support. It has never had a vote in the Kentucky Senate. However, momentum in that chamber is building and we remain hopeful that the bill will be allowed a vote during this legislative session.

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