In describing Jesse Crenshaw, the average person could call him a long-time state representative who was first elected to serve the 77th District in 1993. But for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society, the adjectives used could be determined, persistent, unflagging and resolute. That’s because for years Crenshaw has introduced a bill in the House that would call for the automatic restoration of voting rights for all felons except those who convicted of “treason, intentional killing, a sex crime or bribery.” “It is one of the most important rights a person can have,” Crenshaw said. “From a Christian standpoint, it is about redemption.” There are more than 234,000 Kentuckians with felony convictions, he said, “and most of those are already out of prison. These are people in our society who deserve to be able to vote.”
Last week, HB 70 passed out of the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee with a vote of 6 to 1, with 2 abstentions. Now it is headed for the House floor to be voted on and passed, hopefully. The bill submitted by Crenshaw in 2012 passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 78-18.
“This is the sixth time it has made it to the floor and (was) voted on,” Crenshaw said. Two other times the bill either never made it out of the House committee or it came out but wasn’t called to the floor for a vote.
After passing the House, the bill has a history of evaporating in a Senate committee, never to be heard from again.
At least that has been the Groundhog Day scenario for several legislative sessions. This time around, though, interested parties are hoping a change in the Senate leadership might signal a new day.
“I believe this is the year,” said Tayna Fogle, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a statewide grassroots organization that has lobbied for the bill for years.