Kentucky Governor Issues Executive Action, Restoring Voting Rights

From: The Sentencing Project

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s executive action will automatically restore voting rights to an estimated 100,000 persons with nonviolent felony convictions who have completed their sentences. Kentucky is one of only four states, along with Iowa, Florida, and Virginia, which disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions even after completion of sentence. Voting rights in these states can only be restored through action of a governor or pardons board. An estimated 243,000 Kentuckians with felony convictions have lost their right to vote, including 180,000 who have completed their sentence.

Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, said: “In issuing this executive action Governor Beshear has demonstrated bold and necessary leadership.  Denying the right to vote to an entire class of citizens is deeply problematic for a democratic society and counterproductive to effective reentry.”

Nationally, 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses. Felony disenfranchisement policies vary by state, as states institute a wide range of disenfranchisement policies. The most extreme states restrict voting rights even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole; such individuals in those states make up approximately 45 percent of the entire disenfranchised population.

Felony disenfranchisement has produced broad racial disparities in its impact as well. Nationwide, one in every 13 black adults cannot vote as the result of a felony conviction, and in two states – Florida and Virginia – more than one in five black adults is disenfranchised.

Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy of The Sentencing Project, said: “We are encouraged by state officials who are reconsidering archaic disenfranchisement policies, with 23 states having enacted reforms since 1997. Yet, there is much more work to do, both in Kentucky and other states, to allow the full democratic participation of all citizens.”