Kentucky is one of two states that permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. It’s enshrined in the state constitution. The only way to restore voting rights is to appeal to the governor. Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said he will propose a constitutional amendment to allow voting rights to be restored to some people who have completed their felony sentences. “When the constitution was written in Kentucky a lot of these crimes weren’t even felonies. We’ve made them that since then. So it’s not like the constitution intended to deprive people of their voice and their own community for the rest of their lives for a simple mistake,” McGarvey said. McGarvey said the legislation, which hasn’t been finalized yet, will likely still ban people who have committed voter fraud or crimes that involve violence or sexual assault.
According to the Sentencing Project, more than nine percent of Kentucky’s adult population can’t vote because of a felony conviction. That includes 26 percent of the state’s African-American population.
In 2015, outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order restoring voting rights to about 180,000 non-violent offenders who had completed their sentences.
Weeks later, Gov. Matt Bevin repealed the measure as one of his first acts in office, saying that the issue should be “addressed by the legislature and the will of the people.”