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February 13, 2013 (Kentucky New Era)

Kentucky lawmakers set to again consider restoration of voting rights

Nearly a quarter-million people in Kentucky are denied voting rights due to prior felony convictions, ranking among the highest disenfranchisement rates in the country, according to a new report released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.

The findings come as Kentucky lawmakers again consider legislation that would restore voting rights to people with felony convictions.  With an estimated 243,842 of its adults barred from voting, Kentucky has the nation's third-highest disenfranchisement rate, behind Florida and Mississippi, the report said.

Re-enfranchisement proposals have been stymied for years in the General Assembly.

The report notes that voting booths are off-limits to one of every 14 adults in Kentucky, nearly three times the national rate.  Among blacks, almost one in five is disenfranchised in Kentucky — almost triple the national rate, according to the report.

These people are no longer in prison but taxpayers living and working in communities across the state.  "Overall, 90 percent of the disenfranchised population is not in prison, but living in the community," the report noted.

"If you believe in redemption ... then people who have rehabilitated themselves ought to be able to be just like any other citizen and be allowed to vote," said state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, who has championed the cause for years.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Felony Disenfranchisement, Collateral Consequences