Kentucky’s New Governor Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Nonviolent Felons

December 13, 2019 by Dan McCue

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday restored the voting rights of more than 140,000 people with nonviolent felony convictions, making good on an inaugural promise he made after being sworn in recently.

The order signed by Beshear applies to Kentuckians who have committed nonviolent offenses and completed their sentences and does not include sex offenders, rapists or murderers.

“My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect,” the governor said. “My faith also teaches forgiveness and that is why I am restoring voting rights to Kentuckians who have done wrong in the past, but are doing right now.”

“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,” Beshear added.

Justice Mary Noble, secretary of the state’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said the agency “embraces the executive order and we look forward to assisting those who qualify with the restoration of their civil rights.

“Every citizen who has paid their debt has earned the right to return to full citizenship. To withhold that is simply wrong,” she said.

The move reinstates an executive order implemented by Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, in 2015, and reversed by his successor Republican Matt Bevin, whom Andy Beshear defeated in an upset victory last month.

Prior to Thursday, convicted felons in Kentucky had to seek clemency from the governor on an individual basis to have their voting rights restored.

Iowa is now the only state in the country with a lifetime ban on voting for anyone convicted of a felony. 

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