Bill to restore felon voting rights passes committee

For the fifth straight year, a House committee has approved legislation that would give convicted felons who serve their time and complete probation the right to vote.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, and would put the issue before voters as a constitutional amendment on the next statewide general election.

Those in support of the measure who testified before the committee included the Rev. Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP and Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel.

Since 2007, Crenshaw has proposed the bill but remains confident that felony enfranchisement will finally become a reality during this legislative session despite having never cleared a Senate committee.

Currently, Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that impose a denial of voting rights for felons after their release. The commonwealth has allowed felons to regain their rights by going through a rigorous applicaiton process that requires a pardon from the governor.

Even if the bill gets out of the General Assembly and the amendment was approved by voters, certain felons would still need apply in order to have their rights restored by the governor, including those convicted of bribery, treason, certain sex crimes or intentionally killing someone, except under extreme emotional disturbance.

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