Bill Granting Felons Voting Rights Passes Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 62 Thursday, which could eventually lead to the restoration of voting rights and some civil rights for felons who are not convicted of violent crimes, sex offenses, crimes against children, or treason.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said the bill would bring Kentucky in line with several other states that automatically restore voting rights for felons upon completion of their sentences.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R) Lebanon and Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D)

 

The bill passed 29-7, and some Democrats voted against the bill because they believe it doesn’t go far enough.

“We agree that we’re going to establish justice in our society, and yet we as a body politic… are one of two states that can’t agree on our constitutional creed that once you served your time, once you have done all you’re supposed to do for a crime, you’ve paid your debt,” state Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Frankfort, said. “We say that, Mr. President, in this country, in this state, but that is the biggest fallacy going and we need to acknowledge that.”

Opponents also worry the term “violent” isn’t specific enough.

The bill originally included a five-year waiting period for the restoration of voting rights but Sen. Higdon took that part out.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, voted in favor of Senate Bill 62, but he wants to see that five-year waiting period put back in.

“I’ve been consistently for a waiting period on this issue for a long time,” Thayer said. “I think with the recidivism rate, I think there should be a waiting period to see if people can reenter society and be good citizens before they’re granted their rights back to vote.”

The bill needs approval in the House before going to voters in November.

Because Kentucky only allows four constitutional amendments on the ballot each year, the legislative leaders will have to meet to decide which ones passed this session will make it to the ballot.