Outgoing Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights to Non-Violent Felons who have Served their Terms

Saturday, December 05, 2015
Gov. Steve Beshear (AP photo)

Non-violent felons in Kentucky who have served their time will now be able to vote once again, thanks to outgoing Governor Steve Beshear.


The Democratic governor signed an executive order (pdf) just weeks before leaving office that grants the right to vote to about 140,000 non-violent felons who have completed their sentences.


“This disenfranchisement makes no sense,” Beshear said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged, powerful few. It makes no sense because it defeats a primary goal of our corrections system, which is to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.”


Kentucky joins more than 20 other states that have eased restrictions on voting by former prisoners over the past 20 years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The state was one of three that had lifetime voting bans for felons unless they received a special exemption from the governor. The voting prohibitions remain in Florida and Iowa and could be reinstated in Kentucky by a future governor. 


Beshear will be replaced next month by Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin, who could reverse the executive order if he chooses. But The New York Times said Bevin seemed “positive” about Beshear’s action.


“Governor-elect Bevin has said many times that the restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do,” Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Bevin’s transition office, told the Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights to Thousands of Felons (by Erik Eckholm, New York Times)

Beshear Restores Voting Rights to Some Felons (by Mike Wynn, Courier-Journal)

Kentucky Governor Creates New Process to Help Restore Voting Rights to 170,000 Citizens (Brennan Center for Justice)

Executive Order: Relating to the Restoration for Civil Rights for Convicted Felons (Office of Steven L. Beshear, Governor) (pdf)

State Drops Opposition to Letting Thousands of Low-Level Ex-Cons Vote Again (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Lawsuit Filed against “Prison Gerrymandering” in Florida (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Judge Says Secretary of State Illegally Denied Thousands of Felons the Right to Vote (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


Roger Clegg 8 years ago
Too bad. If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in. Read more about this issue on our website here [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement ] and our congressional testimony here: [ http://judiciary.house.gov/_files/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf ]

Leave a comment