Newly elected governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday, December 12, automatically restoring voting rights to more than 175,000 Kentuckians with past felony convictions who have completed their full sentences, probation, and parole. It also applies to people who are still on probation or parole only because of unpaid fines or restitution.
All people whose rights are restored will still need to register to vote. Anyone who qualifies and received their final discharge before December 12, 2019, can request verification from the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) that their rights were restored.
This order is a step in the right direction, but leaves behind more than 65,000 other people who have completed their sentence, probation, and parole. According to the Governor, these people are excluded because they were convicted for "treason; bribery in an election; and violent offenses, including all rapes and sexual abuses, homicide, fetal homicide, first and second-degree assault and assault under extreme emotional disturbance."
Before this order, the Kentucky Constitution disenfranchised roughly 242,000 people because they had past felony convictions. Kentucky was one of only two states that permanently barred people with past felony convictions from voting. This disenfranchised approximately 9% of otherwise eligible voters and nearly 25% of African-Americans.
We hope the state legislature will start the process to remove this draconian requirement from the constitution.
View the executive order in the PDF below. Read the Governor's press release here.
Who qualifies for restoration and how can they register vote?
Who qualifies? This order automatically restores the voting rights of some people with past felony convictions. You must have completed your full sentence, probation, and parole to qualify. If you are still on probation or parole only because of unpaid fines or restitution, you are also eligible and should have your rights automatically restored. The order does not cover people who were convicted of bribery; treason; sex offenses; and some "violent" offenses, as defined by Kentucky law. It also does not include people with felony convictions from other states or for federal crimes.
How do I get my rights restored? All people who qualify will have their rights restored automatically. Anyone who qualifies and received their final discharge before December 12, 2019, can request verification from the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) that their rights were restored. You can call DOC at 502-782-2266 for more information.
What if I don't qualify? Anyone who does not qualify can petition the Governor for restoration of civil rights. The application is free and can be found here. The application takes up to 12 weeks to process, so submit the application at least 3 months before the voter registration deadline to vote in the next election.
When will my rights be restored? The Governor's office has not released a concrete timeline, but stated that they plan to complete the process before the upcoming voter registration deadline on April 20, 2020, so all affected people can vote in the May 19, 2020, primary elections.
Do I still need to register to vote? You must register to vote after your voting rights are restored. You must register to vote by April 20, 2020, to vote in the 2020 primary elections on May 19, 2020. Registering to vote is free. Register online at GoVoteKY.com or visit your local county clerk's office to register in person. Click here to find the location of your local county clerk.
Is it free? Yes! This order does not require any fines or fees.