FRANKFORT, Ky. — Activists gathered at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon for a rally supporting voting rights for people previously convicted of felonies in the state.
Around 200 people from around Kentucky spent the day meeting with lawmakers and demanded an amendment to the state's constitution that would automatically restore voting rights to people who served time in prison for a felony charge.
In Kentucky, anyone convicted of a felony loses the right to vote in elections and to run for public office even after serving their prison time.
“We are tired of society and this legislature continuing to impose a lifetime of exclusion that goes far beyond what any judge or jury deemed sufficient," said Tip Moody, a resident of Wilmore who recently had his voting rights restored.
According to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, around 200,000 people in Kentucky are denied the right to vote due to having previously being convicted of a felony. In 2019, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that restored voting rights to around 140,000 former felons.
Roger Fox, a resident of Danville was one of those 140,000 that is now able to vote again after being released from prison in 2015.
“What’s been done in the executive order was great. It created some clarity for us, but we need a clear pathway for this restoration of rights," Fox said.
Fox is now a father to two children and works for the state as a social worker.
“I thought maybe I should be done, maybe I should be done but then I went to work and realized there’s a lot more Rogers coming through the door," Fox said.
In most states, after serving their time people convicted of a felony have their voting rights automatically restored, but in Kentucky it requires action from the governor.
The group Tuesday afternoon demanded lawmakers pass a constitutional amendment that would automatically give former felons their voting rights back upon release.
“I want those disenfranchised among us to have our voices restored at the ballot box so that we may have equal opportunity in choosing those who represent us rather than them choosing them who gets to vote for them," Moody said.
According to Secure Democracy USA, most voters in the Commonwealth regardless of political position support voting right restoration for people convicted of felonies.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the upper chambers, we hope you are listening to us today," Moody said.
State Rep. Ketturah Herron from Louisville has sponsored HB 97, which would automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians upon completion of their sentence unless convicted of treason, bribery in an election or election fraud.