Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kentucky League of Women Voteres releases analysis of amendments to felon voting rights bill

·  Kentucky one of four most restrictive states banning former felons from voting
·  Original provisions of HB 70 automatically restore rights to about 180,000 individuals if Constitutional amendment approved
·  HB 70 as amended requires 5-year waiting period and imposes other restrictions denying or delaying restoration of voting rights for 100,000 individuals
·  Amendments put undo burden on election officials

Frankfort, KY - The League of Women Voters of Kentucky released “An Analysis of the Impact of HB 70 and Proposed Amendments Regarding Voting Rights for Persons with Felony Convictions” today. Under House Bill 70 as originally proposed, permanent disenfranchisement would be eliminated for all but a handful of offenses and all rights would be restored at completion of sentence. Amendments introduced in the Senate last week, would substantially limit the number of individuals who would benefit from the policy change, as well as create greater administrative burdens for election officials. It is estimated that as many as 55% of the ex-felon population currently disenfranchised in Kentucky would continue to be excluded from the automatic rights restoration process if these amendments were enacted and the proposed Constitutional amendment are approved by voters. According to a 2013 League report Kentucky has the third highest rate of citizens and the second highest rate of African Americans who have lost their right to vote despite completing their full felony sentence

According to the recent analysis, of the 180,000 former felons who have completed their sentences and who would have voting rights restored under original provisions of HB 70, 100,000 would be adversely affected by these amendments. 

Kentucky’s disenfranchisement policies are harsh compared to most states. Neighboring states Illinois, Indiana and Ohio restore voting rights immediately upon release from prison, and Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia restore rights upon completion of probation or parole supervision. None of these states impose any restrictions on the right to vote for any offense after completion of sentence.
The amendments to HB 70 impose a five-year waiting period after sentencing has been completed and disqualify anyone with more than one felony conviction from automatic restoration of voting rights. These limits would create an undue burden for County Clerks who would be obligated to certify that individuals had completed the full waiting period, a challenging task.

The League has a longstanding belief that every citizen of our Commonwealth should be protected in the right to vote. Legislative co-chair of the state League, Terry Naydan said, “The League supports HB 70 without amendments as we seek to increase citizen participation in our state’s electoral process, as most other states have done.”

 “The League was created by women who struggled many years seeking the right to vote,” said Cindy Heine, League co-president. “We believe citizens who have made a mistake should have that right reinstated once they have completed their full sentence and/or parole.”

The state League of Women Voters takes positions only after deliberation and consensus from local Leagues across the state.

“An Analysis of the Impact of HB 70 and Proposed Amendments Regarding Voting Rights for Persons with Felony Convictions,” February 2014; Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of Kentuckya Report of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, January 2013 and October 2006 are available at lwvky.org/about/publications/.