In the annals of cynical politics, Kentucky’s Republican Senate has reached new heights, or depths. It has thumbed its collective nose at 180,000 Kentuckians who have served their time for felony convictions but still aren’t allowed to vote, and the thousands of people who have worked for years to restore their voting rights — and told them they should be thankful. The House should refuse this farcical rewrite. The Senate has a long history of rejecting felon voting rights but the twist this year is the upper chamber manipulated the process so it could appear to be expanding rights without actually doing so.
This is how it worked: The House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 70, a plan long championed by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, to amend the state Constitution to automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their time. Kentucky is one of very few states that still restrict voting privileges for this group of people. The only way they can vote here is to get a special dispensation from the sitting governor.
Under Crenshaw’s bill, voting rights would be restored automatically — except for those convicted of intentional homicide, sodomy, rape and sex offenses involving children —- after sentences are served. Simple and fair.
The Senate version, pushed by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is neither simple nor fair nor a real improvement. It maintains the status quo, which extends punishment beyond the period set in a court of law, preventing people who have rejoined society from participating fully.