Weeks before he leaves office, the governor of Kentucky on Tuesday issued an executive order that immediately granted the right to vote to about 140,000 nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. The order by Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat, was cheered by advocates for criminal justice reform and civil rights, who said it would place Kentucky’s policy more in line with others across the nation and was consistent with a trend toward easing voting restrictions on former inmates. Kentucky had been one of just three states imposing a lifetime voting ban on felons unless they received a special exemption from the governor. Florida and Iowa still carry the lifetime ban.
“Once an individual has served his or her time and paid all restitution, society expects them to reintegrate into their communities and become law-abiding and productive citizens,” Mr. Beshear said at a news conference. “A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”
As an executive order, the new policy can be altered or scrapped by a future governor. But the initial response from the governor-elect, Matt Bevin, a conservative Republican, was positive.
“Governor-elect Bevin has said many times that the restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do,” said Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bevin’s transition office. Mr. Bevin first learned of the order on Tuesday, she said, and will evaluate it in the coming weeks.