FRANKFORT, Ky- Gov. Andy Beshear fulfilled another campaign promise today.
The Democrat signed an executive order granting more than 140,000 former felons the right to vote.
The order only applies to non-violent offenders and exempts violent offense such as rape or murder; treason and bribery in an election.
Beshear said some crimes are just too heinous to forgive.
“Some crimes are so awful and inflict so much emotional trauma that we owe it to the victims and the survivors to those crimes not to restore the right to vote,” Beshear said. “It’s like all things, finding the right balance and I believe we have found the right balance here today.”
This order only applies to people have already served their sentence meaning anyone currently in jail will not have their voting rights automatically restores when they complete their sentence. But Beshear says he is supportive of making sure all Kentuckians are able to get their rights back after they pay their debt to society by passing a constitutional amendment.
Beshear’s order does not require Kentuckians to pay fines or fees to have their voting rights restored–but it also does not relieve them of those fines. Beshear says he did not want to exclude someone simply because they cannot afford it.
Kentucky was just one of two states that had a lifetime ban on voting for felons–resulting in nearly one in ten Kentuckians being ineligible to vote and about one in four African-Americans as a result of that ban.
Amanda Bourland has been unable to vote for more than 20 years she spoke after the signing of order expressing her gratitude.
“140,000 people today, just today, over 140,000 people are feeling the same way that I’m feeling,” Bourland said. “I promise I will continue to do the next right thing, and every election I will be there, every one.”
Rynn Young committed a felony when he was 18 resulting in him never being able to vote he spoke about his excitement to finally cast a ballot.
“It’s something that a lot of people might take for granted, trust me 21 years without a voice is unimaginable, as an American, as someone who loves his nation dearly,” Young said. “I just appreciate the opportunity for a second chance just to be heard.”
The executive order also allows those who had their rights restored to hold public office as long as they have met a certain criteria set forth in the order.
The order does not apply to federal convictions or convictions from other jurisdictions and it is not a pardon, the convictions will still be on record.
Those who have had their rights restored can to their county clerk’s office and register to vote without filling out a form.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, says his caucus is still reviewing the executive order.
“We are now reviewing the specific details of this executive order,” he said in a statement. “Initially, we have concerns about the use of an executive order to effectively amend our state constitution. Regardless of which side you are on – and it is important to note that a version of this has already passed the House with support from members of both parties – ultimately only the Kentucky voter has the authority to amend our constitution.”
To view the executive order click here.