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The Ballot Box Opening for Former KY Felons?

February 9, 2009

Frankfort, KY – More than 186,000 Kentuckians of voting age are not allowed to cast ballots because of felony convictions - but that could change this week. House Bill 70, which would restore the voting rights of former felons, is up for a vote Tuesday. Richard Mitchell with the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice says former felons deserve the same basic rights as any citizen.

"We get so angry at crimes people commit that we want to punish them forever. But I'm thinking of the logic of it: 'Now you've done your time, you're out of prison.' Why keep punishing somebody after that?"

Meanwhile, opponents of the bill say felons forfeit their constitutional rights when they commit crimes.

Supporters say however that allowing former felons to vote would give them a constructive connection to their communities that reduces crime and increases rehabilitation. Mitchell adds that disenfranchising these voters weakens our democracy and the justice system.

"I believe in democracy and I think the more people who feel they have a stake and a voice in our society, the better it is for our society."

Kentucky is one of just two states where convicted felons can only have their voting rights restored by the governor. Hundreds will rally in Frankfort today to encourage legislators to approve the measure changing that.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY