In his final session, Crenshaw optimistic about push to restore voting rights to non-violent felons

01/14/2014 09:17 AM

As he has done for more than a decade, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw went before a House committee Tuesday morning to make another pitch for a constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote for non-violent felons who had served their time.

And the House Elections and Constitutional Amendment Committee passed the measure, as it has done in recent sessions, by a vote of 8-0 with Republican Rep. Joe Fischer of Fort Thomas passing.

After serving their time, felons now must file a petition with the governor to ask for their rights to vote back.

Crenshaw told Pure Politics later that he was more hopeful than ever and would be ecstatic if it passed in his final session. He is retiring later this year after serving the 77th District in Fayette County since 1993.

This year could be the best shot after Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has lent his support to the issue.

Shortly after the panel passed the bill, Paul released a statement saying, “A government of, by and for the people is only possible with a free right to vote. I am committed to securing this right for the people of the Commonwealth and I urge the Kentucky House of Representatives to pass HB 70 so this amendment can be placed on the ballot.”

Some Republicans in the Senate, where the measure has faced roadblocks in the past, have said they’re not supportive of Crenshaw’s proposal because a process already exists for ex-felons to apply for restoration of their rights to vote.

During Tuesday’s hearing, House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover told the committee that he’s always supported allowing non-violent felons an automatic way to get their rights to vote back as a measure of “fairness.”

“I think we are a forgiving people,” Hoover said, adding that unlike other Republicans, he doesn’t view the automatic restoration of voting rights as something that will help Democrats.

Advocates who joined Crenshaw and Hoover in the effort included Rev. Patrick Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, Nita Smith of the Kentucky League of Women Voters and Raoul Cunningham, president of the NAACP’s Louisville chapter, although the measure came for a vote before Cunningham could even speak.

Kentucky is one of four states that doesn’t have a constitutional provision or statute allowing automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons. Florida, Iowa and Virginia also don’t, but outgoing Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued an executive order last year to allow automatic restoration of rights.

Bill to change running mate requirement in race for governor fails

House Democrats blocked a bill by Republican Rep. Mike Harmon of Danville that would allow candidates for governor to run without having to name a running mate until after the primary elections.

The bill failed because a majority of the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee didn’t go for it. The four Republicans on the panel voted for it, but Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham of Frankfort voted no while Democratic Reps. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville, Sannie Overly of Paris and Darryl Owens of Louisville passed.

Overly and Marzian said they would be for the bill if it restored public financing for gubernatorial campaigns. The legislature stripped out public financing before the 2003 race for governor.


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