Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear Restores Voting Rights To 240,000 Former, Non-Violent Felons
The newly elected Democratic governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, signed an executive order on Thursday restoring the right of former felons to vote and hold public office.
Beshear said the order would apply to over half of the estimated 240,000 Kentuckians with felonies in their past, as well as those who finish their sentences in the future. It does not apply to violent offenders, and those convicted under federal law or in other states.
Kentucky joins Virginia, Florida, Nevada and other states that have extended voting rights to former felons recently. Iowa is now the only state to strips all former felons of their voting rights.
Beshear believes in justice, but says, “I also believe in second chances.”
“We’re talking about moms and dads, neighbors and friends, people who have met and taken on one of the greatest challenges anyone can face: overcoming the past,” he said. “It is an injustice that their ability to rejoin society by casting a vote on Election Day is automatically denied.”
Beshear urged the state legislature to remove Kentucky Constitution’s ban on former felons voting through an amendment. He said that in the meantime he will try to make the restoration process as automatic as possible.
“Our goal is that no one will have to fill out a form, and our goal is to create a system and a process where any of these individuals now living in all parts of Kentucky can go into any clerk’s office” and register to vote easily he said in his remarks.
He added, “I hope today is just the start of righting a lot of injustices.”
Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, had signed a similar order when was governor, but it was revoked by his successor, Matt Bevin. The younger Beshear beat out Bevin in an election last month.
Beshear beat out Bevin, who was widely unpopular amongst both Democrats and Republicans, in a closely watched race in early November. The Democratic victory in a traditionally red state has given Beshear a platform to make progressive changes, such as voting rights restoration.