Kentucky Lawmakers Weigh Options for Expanding State Voting Rights

State lawmakers are considering bills to restore rights for people with felonies in their past, as well as expand polling hours, vote-by-mail options and same-day registration.

Kentucky Lawmakers Weigh Options for Expanding State Voting Rights
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State lawmakers are considering bills to restore rights for people with felonies in their past, as well as expand polling hours, vote-by-mail options and same-day registration.

virtual event Thursday by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) aims to keep people informed about the potential voting-related changes.

Bonifacio Aleman, a member KFTC's Jefferson County chapter, said he supports Gov. Beshear's 2019 decision to grant voting rights to more than 170,000 Kentuckians with past felony convictions.

But he believes the executive order didn't cast a wide enough net, and said the restoration process is inconsistent and vague.

"Once you submit your application, either by mail or email, there's no time limit on a decision on whether you'll get your voting rights restored or not," Aleman explained. "And so, some people get them restored, some people don't."

Sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, House Bill 232 would restore the right to vote and serve on juries to nearly all people after they've served their time. The bill excludes people convicted of treason or voter fraud.

If it passes this session, Aleman confirmed the issue will be on the ballot for Kentuckians to consider next year.

Kentucky continues to rank fourth in the nation for its number of residents who are unable to vote.

Aleman pointed out voter disenfranchisement is part of a larger web of racial and socioeconomic inequities that tend to hurt Black and Brown communities.

"A few years ago, our numbers were trending in Kentucky upwards of 20-something percent of African Americans being disenfranchised from the vote due to a felony conviction," Aleman recounted.

He added pending legislation would make major strides in increasing voting access statewide.

House Bill 51 would extend polling hours from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. House Bill 72 would allow more people to use absentee ballots. And House Bill 182 would allow same-day voter registration.

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