Stories

Kentucky governor restores voting rights for 100,000 nonviolent felons

Gov.-elect Andy Beshear speaks to supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Gov. Andy Beshear on Nov. 5, just before he was confirmed Kentucky's new governor. Photo: John Sommers II/Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed an order on Thursday restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 people with nonviolent felony convictions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

QuoteBy taking this step, by restoring these voting rights, we declare that everyone counts in Kentucky. We all matter."
— Gov. Andy Beshear

Why it matters: Iowa is now the only state in the country with a lifetime ban on voting for anyone convicted of a felony. Convicted felons in Kentucky previously had to seek clemency from the governor on an individual basis.

  • The League of Women Voters of Kentucky issued a report in January that some 312,000 people feel disenfranchised because of felony convictions. 

Between the lines: Beshear appears to be following in his father's footsteps, former Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who signed an executive order just before leaving office in 2015 to restore voting rights to more than 100,00 convicted felons.

  • That order would've applied to those who'd "completed their sentences and paid all of their court-ordered restitution," but his successor, former Gov. Matt Bevin (R), suspended the order days after taking office, per the Lexington Herald-Leader.

What he's saying: Kentucky's new governor explained his decision during his inaugural address, saying his faith "teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect."

  • "My faith also teaches me forgiveness," he said. "That's why on Thursday I will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to over 100,000 men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now. They deserve to participate in our great democracy."

The big picture: Beshear, who previously served as Kentucky's attorney general, was sworn in Tuesday after narrowly defeating Bevin in the state's gubernatorial election last month.

Go deeper: