FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) - More than one hundred forty thousand Kentucky non-violent felons who have paid their debt to society may now be eligible to vote, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday.
Gov. Beshear was surrounded by voting rights supporters as he signed a civil rights restoration executive order giving many Kentuckians who have completed their sentences for nonviolent offenses a second chance.
“My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches forgiveness and that is why I am restoring voting rights to over one hundred forty thousand Kentuckians who have done wrong in the past, but are doing right now,” said Beshear. “I want to lift up all of our families and I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect and expand the right to vote.”
“Every citizen who has paid their debt has earned the right to return to full citizenship. To withhold that is simply wrong,” said Justice Mary Noble, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. “The cabinet embraces the executive order and we look forward to assisting those who qualify with the restoration of their civil rights.”
The specific crimes excluded from the restoration executive order include treason; bribery in an election; and violent offenses, including all rapes and sexual abuses, homicide, fetal homicide, first and second-degree assault and assault under extreme emotional disturbance.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Raoul Cunningham said, “The right to vote is one of the most valuable constitutional rights granted to most Americans and is the cornerstone of our democracy. The NAACP commends Gov. Beshear for taking this bold step in restoring the voting rights to more than 140,000 Kentuckians convicted of a crime who have served their sentences.”
Rynn Young, of Louisville, attended today’s announcement to discuss the drug possession conviction he received at age 18 that has prevented him from voting his entire life. He now works as a sales representative and has twin 21-month-old daughters. He wants to vote so he can have a voice in determining the future for his daughters.
“Today is a day I thought I would never see,” said Young. “As a citizen of this great nation, I haven't felt a sense of equality or belonging since my felony conviction 21 years ago. Today, Gov. Beshear has restored the feeling that my opinion on matters that affect us all does matter. I cannot thank him enough.”
The right to hold public office is also restored to those who have completed their sentences and have met certain criteria set forth in the order, including satisfying the terms of their probation, parole or service of sentence.
Read the executive order below.