Shawnika Gill won’t get a chance to vote in the State of Kentucky unless the governor says she can. That’s because Kentucky has one of the most restrictive laws in the country for felons who want their right to vote restored and is one of only four states that requires the governor to sign off on the person’s application. But a group of political activists and those who work with felons have pushed in recent years for a change in the law and hope to gain traction with the new Senate leadership this year. Gill, 37, of Covington said a felony burglary conviction in 1996 at the age of 20 has kept her from the ballot box in Kentucky, even 10 years after she got out of prison. She said she feels she did her time. “I feel like I pay my taxes like everybody else and want to speak on things that are going on, especially gay marriage and things,” Gill said. “I want to marry my mate. I want to be able to put her on my income tax.”
In 38 states, most felons get voting rights restored automatically upon completion of the sentence, with some states making exceptions for violent crimes. Other states impose a time period after the sentence before voting rights get restored.
At a recent public meeting in Northern Kentucky with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes about voting laws, several people wore stickers reading, “I voted but 243,842 Kentuckians could not. Restore voting rights to former felons.”
Around the country, an estimated 5.8 million felons can’t vote, according to research and advocacy group The Sentencing Project.
A bill that would automatically restore most felons’ right to vote after a probationary period has passed the Kentucky House for several sessions but has not gotten through the Senate. The bill introduced last session would amend the constitution, meaning voters would have to approve it. It would still bar people convicted of certain crimes, such as murder and sex offenses.
Full Article: Advocates seeking return of felons’ right to vote