Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed an executive order Nov. 24 that will restore the right to vote and hold public office to some former felons who have served their sentences.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the public policy arm of Kentucky’s bishops, has advocated for legislation that would restore these rights.
The order does not include persons who were convicted of violent or sexual crimes, bribery or treason, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“The right to vote is one of the most intrinsically American privileges, and thousands of Kentuckians are living, working and paying taxes in the state but are denied this basic right,” said Governor Beshear in the statement. “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. A key part of that transition is the right to vote.”
Those who have already served out their sentences, can fill out a “restoration of rights” form. The form is available at www.corrections.ky.gov or by calling 782-2248.
For those still serving time, under probation or on parole, “The Department of Corrections will verify prior to issuing a restoration of civil rights that there are no pending criminal cases, charges, arrests or outstanding court-ordered restitution,” according to the statement.
Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky , said he is pleased with the order signed by the governor, though he’d like to see House Bill 70 passed, which would automatically restore these rights in the future.
“It’s a workable solution for now, but it will be better for the General Assembly to act on automatic restoration,” said Hall.
Hall said he hopes it’s not a “short-lived program” and that Governor-elect Matt Bevin will move forward with the new order when he takes office in a few days.
Under Kentucky’s constitution, a person convicted of a felony loses the right to vote, hold public office, own a fire arm and serve on a jury. According to the statement from the governor’s office, Kentucky is one of only four states that does not automatically restore voting rights after a person has served a prison sentence.
This executive order has the potential to affect about 180,000 who have served prison sentences in the state.