More than half of the 180,000 Kentuckians barred from voting because of a felony conviction would remain permanently disenfranchised under changes the Kentucky Senate made last week to a voting rights bill, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. In its original form, House Bill 70 would put a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot asking voters if felons should have their voting rights automatically restored after they complete their sentences. Felons convicted of intentional murder and certain sex offenses would be excluded. Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, last week changed the bill to make it more restrictive. The Senate version, which cleared that chamber on a 34-to-4 vote, would require felons to wait five years with no misdemeanor or felony convictions before they could register to vote. The Senate version also would exclude felons with multiple prior offenses.
The Senate’s version would block an estimated 55 percent of Kentucky’s 180,000 felons from voting again, largely because they have multiple felonies on their record, according to the League of Women Voters analysis.
It also would impose an undue burden on county clerks to verify the details of felons’ criminal histories and sentences when the felons walked in to register to vote, the League said.
The nonpartisan group wants the General Assembly to pass the original version of House Bill 70 without the Senate’s changes, said League co-president Cindy Heine.