House passes bill to let Kentuckians determine voting rights for most felons

Bill now goes to Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2016) —The House voted 82-9 on Thursday in support of letting the state’s voters decide whether to automatically restore voting rights of convicted felons.

Currently, in Kentucky, a felon’s voting rights can only be restored by a pardon of the governor. House Bill 70, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) and Rep. George Brown Jr. (D-Lexington) would place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that, if approved, would allow most felons to have their voting rights restored once their sentence or probation is served.

Voting rights would not be restored under the proposal for felons convicted of treason, intentional homicide and specific sex crimes.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia currently allow automatic restoration of felon voting rights, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Attempts to put the question of automatic restoration of felon voting rights on statewide ballot have been made in Kentucky for well over a decade, said Owens, but so far to no avail. Similar bills have passed the House but have never passed the Senate.

“With the growing wave of interest and advocacy in criminal justice reform I’m hopeful that, this year, HB 70 becomes law,” said Owens.

Another lawmaker speaking in support of the measure was Rep. Jerry Miller (R-Eastwood) who asked his colleagues to pass the bill.

“I think it’s time that we bring people back in from the dark. Once they complete their sentence and their probation, and they’re non-violent offenders, I think it’s time to bring them back,” said Miller.

HB 70 now goes to the Senate for consideration.