24 November 2015


As his term comes to an end, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has restored voting rights non-violent felons:
Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order on Tuesday that will automatically restore the right to vote and hold public office for felons who have completed their sentences, excluding those who were convicted of violent or sex crimes, bribery or treason.

“The right to vote is one of the most intrinsically American privileges, and thousands of Kentuckians are living, working and paying taxes in the state but are denied this basic right,” said Beshear in a release, just before announcing his move at a press conference in Frankfort. “Once an individual has served his or her time and paid all restitution, society expects them to reintegrate into their communities and become law-abiding and productive citizens. A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”

Kentucky was one of only four states  that did not automatically restore the voting rights of felons after the final discharge of their sentence — whose numbers in the state are estimated to be 181,000, with most of those convicted of nonviolent crimes. Though legislation amending Kentucky’s constitution to restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons (HB 70) has easily passed the state House in recent years, it was continually blocked in the state Senate — with Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, vowing to continue blocking it because he was once jeered by a handful of voting rights activists in a committee meeting.

Beshear’s press release noted that while he consistently supported this legislative effort and wanted to see that process played out, he is signing this executive order with only two weeks left in his term, adding that he wanted to wait until the November election “so as to not politicize the issue during the campaign.”

According to the release, under the executive order “the Department of Corrections (DOC) will verify prior to issuing a restoration of civil rights that there are no pending criminal cases, charges or arrests, or outstanding court-ordered restitution. Individuals meeting those criteria will be granted automatic restoration and a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights will be issued…. Individuals who have already left the correctional system may pick up a restoration of rights form at any Probation and Parole office, or by contacting the Department of Corrections at 502-782-2248 or online at corrections.ky.gov [3], and return it to the address listed. DOC will verify whether they meet the criteria set out in the executive order. Offenders who do will have their voting rights restored ‘without undue delay’ and receive a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights in the mail.”


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