The Slatest

Kentucky Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Nonviolent Felons

Steve Beshear
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear at the Fancy Farm picnic (!) in Fancy Farm, Kentucky on Aug. 2, 2014.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Outgoing Democratic Kentucky governor Steve Beshear has restored voting rights to an estimated 140,000 nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, joining a number of states that have eliminated convict voting restrictions in recent years. (The move is expected to effect another 30,000 individuals over time.)  Beshear’s move was accomplished via executive order—the Kentucky governor has always had the authority to restore ex-convicts’ rights with pardons—but he has also encouraged the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to make the reforms permanent.

“The House has repeatedly advanced measures that would automatically restore rights to some felons after their sentence is complete,” the Louisville Courier-Journal writes of the issue. “But the proposal has faced opposition in the Senate, where critics have pushed for a waiting period and want to reduce the types of felons who would be eligible.”

Incoming Republican governor Matt Bevin has not commented on the merits of Beshear’s order but has said in the past that he supports the restoration of some voting rights for former convicts. (The issue, like a number of other criminal justice reforms, is one on which many U.S. politicians of varying partisan and ideological perspectives have found common ground.)