140K Kentucky Felons Now Have the Right to Vote

Steven Beshear wants to help nonviolent felons transition back into regular life
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2015 7:38 AM CST

(Newser) – Only three states have a lifetime voting ban for all felons who can't get a gubernatorial exemption, and now that number's been knocked down to two. As one of his last moves in office, outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday that grants voting rights to nonviolent felons who've finished their sentences, the New York Times reports. "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," the Democrat said at a news conference. "A key part of that transition is the right to vote." The Brennan Center estimates the number of immediately eligible felons at 140,000 (the Sentencing Project puts that figure closer to 100,000), with another 30,000 to come.

Still not permitted to vote: felons with new pending charges, as well as those with sex crimes, violent crimes, bribery, or treason to their names. One of the main reasons for the drive to restore felon voting rights is to address the racial disparity present in such a ban. The Sentencing Project estimates one in 13 black men nationwide can't vote because of their felon status, the highest rate of any demographic, per the Times. The paper notes that Gov.-elect Matt Bevin has the legal right to swoop in and change or dump the executive order, but one of his reps tells the paper that Bevin "has said many times that the restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do" and that he'll check out the order over the next few weeks to make his final assessment. (Read more Kentucky stories.)

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