Gov. Matt Bevin this week restored the voting rights of 24 Kentuckians who had felony convictions and had completed their sentences. Good for them. Unfortunately, Bevin’s action, the first felon voting restorations since he took office in December 2015, leaves about 1,100 who have petitioned him still disenfranchised. It also leaves out about 180,000 former felons, most of whose rights would have been restored under an executive order filed by former Gov. Steve Beshear shortly before he left office that was overturned by Bevin. … Oddly, despite the very long waiting list that includes some who have been waiting for years, most of Bevin’s two dozen are people who only very recently finished their sentences.
Even odder, while most of the 24 were guilty of drug crimes, Kenneth Lee and Ruth Gambill had pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to former Morgan County Judge-Executive Tim Conley in a bid-rigging scheme that got them bridge construction contracts. As both candidate and governor, Bevin has consistently promised to end what he calls a pay-to-play culture in Kentucky government. Yet, he singled them from among over 1,000 applicants to rejoin those entrusted with electing public officials.
The General Assembly must write a constitutional amendment to remedy this chaotic and unfair situation and place it on the ballot for voter approval in 2018, a move Bevin has endorsed.
In the meantime, we can only hope that Bevin will hasten to allow several hundred other former felons to join the Gambills in this fundamental right of citizenship.