By Danny Mayer
In early March, members of Lexington’s city council voted unanimously to pass a resolution in support of the restoration of voting rights to felons who had served their time in prison. The resolution was largely symbolic—the legal authority to re-enfranchise former felons lies in the hands of state lawmakers, not city council members. The resolution’s main purpose was to offer a demonstration of unified local political support for HB 70, a state bill sponsored by Fayette County congressman Jesse Crenshaw. His bill would allow Kentucky citizens to vote on a constitutional amendment that will automatically restore voting rights to most Kentucky felons who have completed the terms of their sentence (as happens in most other states).
In addition to the show of support, the council’s vote also sent another message to Frankfort politicians: let democracy happen. For the past seven years, the Kentucky House of Representatives has voted on and overwhelmingly passed HB 70, only to see it killed by Republicans Damon Thayer (Georgetown) and Joe Bowen (Owensboro) in the Senate’s Committee on State and Local Government. Consequently, despite the bill garnering increasingly bipartisan support among both state politicians and the general public, HB 70 has yet to leave its assigned Senate subcommittee.