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Advocates Say Bills Could Determine Future of KY Voting Access

Since the mid-1990s, more than 20 states have passed measures to ease voting bans for people with felonies, according to the Sentencing Project. (Adobe Stock)
Since the mid-1990s, more than 20 states have passed measures to ease voting bans for people with felonies, according to the Sentencing Project. (Adobe Stock)
March 13, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Voting-rights advocates are calling for action on legislation that would make it easier and more convenient for Kentuckians to vote, including bills that would allow same-day voter registration at the polls and automatic voter registration when applying for a driver's license.

Additionally, Senate Bill 62 would amend the Kentucky Constitution to restore voting rights to people with certain types of felonies after serving their time, probation and parole.

Alaina Combs is a Jefferson County resident with a felony conviction, who voted for the first time last November after petitioning the governor. She says the process gave her a voice.

"So when we look at voting rights, and we look at the population of people who are excluded, you're mostly looking at poor and black and brown communities," says Combs.

SB 62 recently passed in the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. Kentucky has the third highest voter disenfranchisement rate in the country, according to data from The Sentencing Project.

Combs adds that even without a criminal record, many Commonwealth residents still face numerous hurdles getting to the polls.

"If you want people to do something, you make it easier for them to do," says Combs. "If you don't want people to do something, you make it harder for them to do. And so, the easier that we make it for people, the more people are going to be able to contribute."

Combs believes legislation such as SB 2, which would require voters to show a photo form of identification at the polls, will make voting more difficult for many Kentucky residents. The bill recently passed in the House.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY