Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 12:23 pm
A federal appeals court in Denver is scheduled to hear arguments Aug. 25 in a dispute over whether Kansas and Arizona can require voters using a federal registration form to show proof of citizenship.
It's the first of several significant cases this fall that could determine who gets to vote, and how, in at least six states. The outcomes could also answer a much broader question: Who gets to decide?
A bill that would restore voting rights for thousands of Kentucky felons isn’t likely to pass this year.
Lawmakers say they could not reach an agreement over different versions of the proposed legislation.
GOP Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer previously amended the bill to include a five year waiting period and not cover felons with multiple offenses. He says passage is unlikely this year.
But bill sponsor Jesse Crenshaw says Thayer is refusing to help with a compromise.
“It’s hard for me to deal with Sen. Thayer’s logic because of the fact that he is the man that has to act on calling the bill, calling even the senate committee substitute to not recede and he’s the only one that can do that," Crenshaw, a Lexington Democrat, said.
Supporters of the proposed legislation have criticized Thayer’s changes, which would not affect about half of the felons the original bill was meant to help. The original measure would've affected an estimated 180,000 Kentuckians.
The Kentucky House has rejected changes to a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to many felons.
This throws out a set of revisions from the Republican-controlled Senate that would have reduced the number of affected felons by more than half.
Bill sponsor Jesse Crenshaw implored colleagues to vote against the changes.
“The Senate committee substitute is a totally different bill. It does not accomplish what House Bill 70 was intended to accomplish,” said Crenshaw
The Senate must decide whether to drop its changes or keep them. If it’s the latter, the bill will go to a conference committee so lawmakers can seek a compromise.
Sen. Damon Thayer proposed the rejected changes in the Senate. He says it's premature to speculate about how the Senate will react.
Thousands of people descended onto the Kentucky state Capitol building Wednesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a Civil Rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The original 1964 march on Frankfort agitated for Civil Rights in segregation-era Kentucky, building support for the passage of the 1966 Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
The bill cleared the full Senate late Wednesday by a 34-4 vote. It now goes back to the House for reconciliation. The House bill did not include a five-year waiting period, while the Senate version did.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul has thrown his support behind a state bill that would restore the voting rights of some felons.
Paul spoke before the Kentucky Senate State and Local Government Committee Wednesday. He reminded the panel of the Republican Party’s history of support for civil rights. And he noted the higher incarceration rates of African-Americans in Kentucky, where a fifth of black adults cannot vote due to a felony record.
“There was a time in our society where there were intentional incarcerations based on race," the Bowling Green Republican said. "I don’t think it’s intentional, but there … has become a racial outcome on who’s incarcerated in our country, and I think that’s something that has to be addressed here. Because not only is the incarceration, I think, unfair, then they get out and the voting rights are impaired.”
A bill restoring voting rights for certain felons then cleared the committee by a unanimous vote. But it was amended to include mandatory five-year waiting period and an exemption for those with multiple offenses.
Over lunch at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder and Sen. Rand Paul discussed changes in criminal sentencing and restoring voting rights to ex-felons, a pair of issues the Democratic attorney general and the Republican senator regard as vital to improving the criminal justice system.
In a statement following Wednesday's meeting, the Justice Department said Holder appreciates Paul's leadership on both issues and is pleased to have the opportunity to work with him on shared priorities.
Holder and Paul agree on the need to stem prison overcrowding, which they say diverts money away from crime fighting, and to stop charging many nonviolent, low-level drug defendants with offenses that carry long mandatory minimum sentences.
A bill to would restore voting rights for non-violent felons has passed a Kentucky House committee.
The measure is Rep. Jesse Crenshaw's latest attempt to put approximately 130,000 felons back on the voting rolls.
Similar efforts have repeatedly stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. But Crenshaw, a Lexington Democrat, says he hopes that his bill will fare better this year due to support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
“I hope that he would, in fact, speak with those in the Senate and urge them to call it for a vote, in committee and on the floor. I hope that he would do that."
A spokesman for Sen. Paul says he plans to urge Republicans in the Kentucky Senate to pass the legislation, and will testify before an upcoming Senate committee on the issue.
Currently, felons must seek a restoration of Civil Rights from the governor to regain the right to vote. Beshear has granted nearly 8,000 restorations since taking office.
If passed, Crenshaw’s legislation would put the issue to voters on the November ballot.
A prominent Republican has stepped forward to promote a long-debated proposal that seeks to amend Kentucky's Constitution to restore voting rights for some felons.
House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said Tuesday "it's a matter of fairness" to restore the voting rights of some felons of who have served their sentences and met conditions of probation.
The proposal championed by Democratic state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw easily cleared a House committee on Tuesday. Previous versions have passed the Democratic-led House but died in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Crenshaw says he has his "fingers crossed" that the Senate will approve the legislation.
The proposal would exclude people convicted of intentional murder, rape, sodomy or sex offenses with a minor from having their voting rights automatically restored.
A majority of Kentuckians favor amending the state constitution to allow convicted felons to regain their right to vote once they’ve completed their sentences. A new Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll found that 51 percent are in favor of the move, while 38 percent oppose it.
Kentucky is one of five states that bar all felons from the polls unless their voting rights are restored by a pardon by the Governor or another state agency.
Thirty-six states automatically restore the voting rights of ex-felons. Bills have been introduced in the Kentucky House for six years that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot restoring ex-felons’ voting rights, but those efforts have always fallen short in the state Senate. Last week such a bill passed in the House on a vote of 75 to 25.
A new report shows nearly a quarter-million Kentuckians are denied access to voting booths because of felony convictions.
The report released Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky says the state has the third highest rate of people who lost their voting rights despite completing felony sentences. Among blacks, Kentucky has the second highest disenfranchisement rate.
The report says one of every 14 adults in Kentucky is ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction, well above the national rate.
It says Kentucky is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise all felons, even after they complete their sentences.