By executive order, Democratic Kentucky Governor Steven L. Beshear has restored the right to vote to non-violent ex-felons. The move will restore the right to vote to nearly 170, 000 individuals.
Kentucky is one of four states in which felons permanently lose their right to vote.
“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,” Governor Beshear said at a news conference. “A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”
Governor Beshear has only weeks left in office and will soon step aside to Governor-elect Matt Bevin, a Tea Party Republican.
Bevin could reverse or alter the executive order when he takes over but so far it seems that he has welcomed the move.
“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.
Beshear said that the old rules are harsh and show an outdated form of thinking.
“The old system is unfair and counterproductive,” he said. “We need to be smarter about our criminal justice system. Research shows that ex-felons who vote are less likely to commit crimes and [more likely] to be productive members of society.”
This move will restore voting rights to 140, 000 individuals right away, and an additional 30, 000 who are currently in prison or are on probation will have their rights restored once they complete their sentences.
These re-enfranchised individuals will still have to re-register however.
“Congratulations to the many tens of thousands of people who will soon become engaged members of society again,” Beshear said.
[Roll Call] [The New York Times] [The Nation]