FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 14, 2014) — A bipartisan bill that would let Kentucky voters decide whether to automatically restore felon voting rights cleared a House committee Tuesday.
House Bill 70, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, would place a constitutional amendment on statewide ballot asking voters to approve automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent Kentucky felons who have served their sentence or completed probation or parole. The bill does not apply to felons convicted of rape, sodomy, intentional murder or sexual contact with a minor.
Hoover, who has supported Crenshaw’s past attempts at automatic restoration of nonviolent felon voting rights, said HB 70 is “a matter of fairness. I do think that when an individual has completed what the court system has required of him or her…it’s a matter of fairness that they be restored to their right to vote.”
HB 70 supporter Father Pat Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky said the bill could restore the right to vote for nearly 200,000 felons who must now receive a pardon from the governor before going to the polls.
Felons convicted of rape, sodomy, intentional murder, or sexual contact with a minor would still have to seek a pardon to have their voting rights restored since the amendment would not apply to them.
Crenshaw, who is retiring from the Kentucky House of Representatives this year after 21 years of service, has filed legislation seeking automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felons for almost a decade. The legislation has passed the House several times, but stalled in the Senate.
HB 70 now goes to the full House for its consideration.