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What's next in the fight to solidify voting rights?

Posted at 9:46 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 12:54:24-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18)  — Voting rights advocates in Kentucky told LEX 18's Mike Valente that their work is far from over, despite Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order restoring the right to vote for more than 140,000 people with felony records.

"On the short term, I think we need to make sure we reach all of these individuals who have not regained the right to vote and make sure they register," said Professor Joshua Douglas of the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Douglas said studies have shown former felons who regain the right to vote have lower turnout rates than the general population, so a voter registration campaign leading up to 2020 will be critical.

"I think that we do need to change the state constitution, which requires a legislative act and then the voters—in a ballot proposition—approving new constitutional language, because, as you noted, a future governor could rescind this order," said Douglas.

In 2015, outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear issued an executive order giving voting rights to former felons, but his successor, Matt Bevin, rescinded the order shortly after assuming office.

The professor credits Gov. Andy Beshear for restoring these rights, but he said he believes it could have been broader, seeing that it only applies to a minority of the people disenfranchised in Kentucky, non-violent felons.

"If someone has rehabilitated themselves in that they've served all their time, I see no moral justification in denying them the most basic, fundamental right in our democracy," said Douglas.