LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is being praised for issuing an executive order restoring the right to vote to more than 140,000 people with felony convictions. LEX 18's Mike Valente spoke with one of those people who regained the right to vote last week.
Guy Hamilton-Smith, 36, used to dread Election Day. He told LEX 18 the thought of someone asking him if he had voted was a painful reminder that he didn't have a voice in the process.
Hamilton-Smith lost the right to vote in 2007 when he was convicted of a nonviolent felony, but after he finished his sentence of probation, he was able to pave a new path. Hamilton-Smith went to law school, where he led research into voter disenfranchisement and eventually became a legal fellow, yet in the eyes of the same law he studied, he felt like he was on the outside looking in.
"No matter how hard I tried, or what I did moving forward, that I was not a member of the community, that I had no say," Hamilton-Smith told LEX 18.
Last week, thanks to Beshear's executive order, Hamilton-Smith regained the right to vote.
"So it felt like, to some degree, that I had rejoined society, that I now had a voice," he said.
Before he goes to the ballot box, Hamilton-Smith has made his voice heard online in a personal essay published on slate.com titled, "A Second Chance In Kentucky." In it, he talked about his own experience and he encouraged lawmakers to go even further. He said he is grateful for Beshear's actions, but he takes issue with the carve outs in the order, denying the right to vote to more than 100,000 people convicted of violent felonies, but who have completed their sentences.
"Like me, they work, they pay taxes, they raise families, they try to be law abiding and productive members of society, and in my opinion, there's no reason, in my opinion, no reason to continue to deny them the ability to vote," he said.
Hamilton-Smith said that over the last decade, he's found that even people convicted of heinous acts can be redeemed. He said they deserve the chance to be a part of the electorate. To read his work, click here.
To read Mike Valente's first part of this story, click here.