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November 24, 2015

Outgoing Kentucky Gov restores voting rights to many thousands of nonviolent felons

As reported in this AP article, the "outgoing Democratic governor of Kentucky signed an executive order Tuesday to restore the right to vote and hold public office to thousands of non-violent felons who've served out their sentences."  Here is more:

The order from Gov. Steve Beshear — who leaves office next month — does not include those convicted of violent crimes, sex offenses, bribery or treason. Kentucky already restores voting rights to some nonviolent convicted felons, but the felon must apply to the governor's office, which approves them on a case by case basis. This new order automatically restores voting rights to convicted felons who meet certain criteria upon their release. Those who have already been released can fill out a form on the state Department of Corrections' website.

"All of our society will be better off if we actively work to help rehabilitate those who have made a mistake," Beshear said. "And the more we do that, the more the entire society will benefit."

Kentucky was one of four states that did not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they completed all the terms of their sentences. About 180,000 in Kentucky have served their sentences yet remain banned from casting ballots. The Kentucky legislature has tried and failed numerous times to pass a bill to restore voting rights to felons. The Republican-controlled Senate would agree only if there was a five-year waiting period, which Democrats refused....

Democrats control state government until next month, when Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin takes office. Bevin could repeal Beshear's order or allow it to stand. Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said Bevin supports restoring voting rights to nonviolent offenders, but added he was not notified of Beshear's order until a few minutes before he announced it. "The Executive Order will be evaluated during the transition period," she said.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Hoover, the minority floor leader of the state House of Representatives, said he supports restoring voting rights to convicted felons but opposes Beshear's method of doing it. "It should be the role of the legislature, not one person, which should address these issues through legislative debate," Hoover said in a news release. "This is a prime example of this Governor following in the footsteps of President Obama and putting his own agenda above the people of Kentucky and the elected legislators who serve them."

November 24, 2015 at 08:41 PM | Permalink


Maybe if the great republican minority leader had gotten off his lazy pass the last 9 times it hit has chamber and done his job. The governor would not have needed too.

Posted by: Rodsmith | Nov 24, 2015 8:56:21 PM

Should rapist's votes counterbalance rape victims' votes? I think not. People who break society's norms in an egregious fashion should never have the power to vote again. It really is that simple in my view.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 25, 2015 10:15:19 AM

If you break the law, serve your time and are then suppose to reintegrate back into society, it seems that you should get your voting priviledge back. Otherwise, what it the point, are we saying no one ever changes for the good, no one can turn their life around. Everyone makes mistakes.

Posted by: kat | Nov 25, 2015 11:31:04 AM


Would you be less inclined to preclude such people from ever voting again if they voted the same way as their victims?

In all seriousness, I guess if what we're about is punishing people in perpetuity, with no hope of ever redeeming ourselves, I would hope we can ask why it is that we want that to be the case? Would we rather have someone sitting in a room somewhere who can conceive of himself as nothing but a criminal, or someone who can put his crime behind him (as, presumably, we would also want the victim to do)?

If what we want really is to simply punish people forever with no hope of redemption, well...okay, though bear in mind that you reap what you sow.

Posted by: Guy | Nov 25, 2015 12:19:04 PM

federalist asks whether a rapist's vote should counter-balance that of a rape victim's. Fortunately, Kentucky doesn't have to answer that question because the governor's action
"does not include those convicted of violent crimes, sex offenses, bribery or treason." Last I heard rape is a sex offense. So, federalist, relax.

Posted by: observer | Nov 25, 2015 1:23:11 PM

Kudos to the governor! Folks who have paid the price for their non-violent crimes, should be able to vote again. It's good for them; but more importantly good for society.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Nov 25, 2015 1:25:29 PM

Everyone forgets the adjudicated charge is fictitious, and likely a marked under estimate of the severity of the real crimes. For every charge, 10 crimes have been committed. Criminals do not specialize. So a serial killer is a thief. And a drug dealer is a serial killer of competitors.

The action was a Democratic Party lame duck official poison pill. The criminals are more likely to be black, and more likely to vote for the pro-criminal party, Democrats.

Fortunately, they are also too lazy and too high to vote. So there will not be a big impact from this nasty Democratic Party poison pill.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 25, 2015 2:04:36 PM

Michael Levine. I am a registered Democrat. What is your party registration?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 25, 2015 2:05:37 PM

It is interesting that Kentucky, at least for members of Congress & the President, cannot prevent people from voting for those who earlier in their lives were convicted of serious felonies. Alan Simpson, e.g., is a former U.S. senator who signed an amicus brief in a juvenile life imprisonment case expressing his past acts of arson etc. He wasn't a senator from Kentucky, but the rule applies to each state.

(U.S. Terms Limits v. Thorton, etc., provide that states cannot add to the limited age, residence & citizenship requirements found in the U.S. Constitution.)

The non-violent felon at least should get their suffrage rights back after serving out their sentence including post-confinement terms of parole etc. I am not of the opinion a mark of Cain should be attached for one's whole life even for violent crimes so that a rapist at 25 is denied the vote at 75, but non-violent is a sane line.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 25, 2015 2:14:21 PM

"Should rapist's votes counterbalance rape victims' votes?"

I think they should.

But this is because I generally think that the right to vote is inviolate and should not be taken away for any crime absent treason. There are many solid policy reasons for this but the way Federalist characterized the issue is a strong hint he has no desire to be open to the views of others.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 25, 2015 3:41:22 PM

In most democracies, the debate is over whether those currently incarcerated can vote.

In most of the U.S. the right to vote is automatically restored after the completion of the sentence (including parole, probation, or other post-sentence supervision).

It is only a handful of states that treat a felony conviction as a permanent loss of the right to vote.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 25, 2015 4:43:43 PM


It is striking to compare U.S. policy with other nations here; only two U.S. states do not restrict those in prison for a felony. There has been significant improvement in the last two decades here. The chart here cites twelve states with some restrictions post-sentence.

I think as a matter of principle the two states have the correct policy but realize the range of the possible & support lesser steps when they arise. Still, especially given the reality that these policies have non-neutral effects, international comparisons are compelling. What exactly makes the U.S. special here?


Posted by: Joe | Nov 25, 2015 5:25:42 PM

'The non-violent felon at least should get their suffrage rights back after serving out their sentence including post-confinement terms of parole etc. I am not of the opinion a mark of Cain should be attached for one's whole life even for violent crimes so that a rapist at 25 is denied the vote at 75, but non-violent is a sane line.'

Unfortunately Joe that's the problem with the 'justice' system, it's like that saying about POWs, they'll never be forgotten but in the case of law offenders the crime will never be forgotten.

Posted by: Ward | Nov 25, 2015 5:50:36 PM

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