LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- There's a push for those with former felony convictions to more easily have their voting rights restored in Kentucky. One of the activists leading the push, has served time in prison herself for a past felony drug charge. She went through the process of having her right to vote restored, which she calls complicated. Now, she at least wants the rights restored automatically for people who have served their time. Some lawmakers agree, and plan to push legislation through to change state law.
- Activists and some lawmakers are pushing for a change in Kentucky's law, for ex-felons to more easily regain their rights to vote.
- Under current state law, a former felon can have their right restored, if the governor signs an executive order on a case by case basis the ex-inmate applies for.
- State Senator Morgan McGarvey is promising to file a bill for automatic restoration, so that rights can be restored to the person once they have completed their sentence.
Under current law in Kentucky, an ex-felon can have the right to vote, if they file an application and the governor signs it and grants their voting right restored under executive order. Amanda Hall feels this process is so confusing, most ex-felons are not able to navigate it.
Hall says it was devastating for her to have her right to vote revoked, in the first place. She'd like for those incarcerated not to continue to be able to vote while behind bars.
"It was devastating I remember," Hall recounted, "everytime one of those election days would come around you know, just to feel like you're completely powerless."
After drug convictions, Hall found herself stripped of her right to vote, something she held dear even during her struggles with addiction.
"It's a very lonely, isolated very stigmatized feeling," Hall explained. "It isn't that we just have all these bad people. It's that there's a system that's set up, and people are meant to fail, and we need to change that system."
There are lawmakers fighting to make voting rights for those with past felony convictions restored, automatically.
"We're a nation of second chances, and right now we're one of the very few states in the country that for a lifetime prohibits you from voting based on a mistake you may have made when you were a teenager," Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D- Jefferson) said. He's planning to file a bill for automatic restoration.
Even a U.S. senator, Rand Paul (R- KY), has testified on the topic in a state legislative meeting. "There should be a second chance. You should not be permanently excluded from employment," Paul said in a recent meeting on criminal justice reform.
Hall feels the removal of civic responsibility that is voting, is like taking away a person's humanity. She wants to see universal voting rights, but supports what she calls a 'baby step'-- with automatic restoration, once a person has served their sentence.
"We're people, you know, we are people. It isn't like one day we just ended up in prison. There have been things that have happened in our life," she said.