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,…