Comer liked original voting rights bill better, Paul said changed version still 'a step forward'

02/23/2014 08:42 AM

Prominent Republicans who testified on behalf of restoring voting rights to ex-felons who did their time are taking the something-is-better-than-nothing approach to the changed version of that bill.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, proposed changes to the bill to automatically allow ex-felons to get their voting rights back. Thayer proposed a five-year waiting period in which an ex-felon could not get convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Proponents of the original constitutional amendment, House Bill 70, said the waiting period undermines the concept of automatic restoration once a felon serves his or her time.

Thayer could have made the changes to serve as bargaining leverage in conference committee between House and Senate negotiators. Regardless, it has put GOP supporters of the original measure in a somewhat awkward spot.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has been on the same page with Thayer on many issues, told Pure Politics on Friday that he prefers the original version of the constitutional amendment as proposed by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington. Here’s why:

And U.S. Sen. Rand Paul sought to tamp down criticism over the changes saying even restoration after a five-year waiting period is “a step forward.”

He made those comments to reporters before a rally Friday in which he suggested ways to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party, including to people who have been disenfranchised with the justice system.

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