Kentucky lawmakers in the state Senate should take a cue from Thomas Vance, a retired Air Force master sergeant from Campbell County. Vance called it correctly after participating in the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll on a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore some felons voting rights after they served their full sentences. “It’s just not fair. If I did my time, that should be the end of it,” said Vance, whose views were in the majority, according to the poll conducted Feb. 19-21 by SurveyUSA. The poll found that 51 percent of 616 registered voters favored the potential amendment, while 38 percent were opposed and 11 percent were unsure. It was even close among Republicans, which split 45-45, with only those who identified themselves as “conservative” opposing it, though narrowly, 47-44. Yet Kentucky remains one of only five states that bar all felons from voting unless their rights are restored through a pardon by the governor or another agency.
For six years now, the Kentucky House has passed a bill to restore voting rights to at least some convicted felons after they’ve completed their sentences. House Bill 70 passed the House 75-25 on Feb. 20, and would exempt felons convicted of treason, intentional killing, sex crimes and election bribery.
Republican leaders in the Senate have repeatedly blocked those bills from even coming to a vote among themselves. Their actions mean that the Senate Republicans don’t trust their own constituents, Kentucky’s voters. Their recalcitrance blocks the Kentucky electorate from having its say on this most basic expression of citizenship.