Testimony on Restoring Former Felons’ Voting Rights

Teena Halbig, of the League of Women Voters, testified at a hearing on restoring former felons’ voting rights on September 22, 2009 before the Joint Interim Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affaairs Committee. State Representative Jesse Crenshaw has prefiled BR 2(formerly HB70) which will provide for automatically restoring former felons voting rights once they have paid their debt to society. The following is a copy of her testimony:

I’m Teena Halbig, immediate past state President of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. I am here today to represent the League. Additionally, as current state President of the KY Division of the Unites Nations Association and spokesperson, I want to let you knowthat we are part of the Coalition of Groups supporting the restoration of voting rights to former felons. Today is a great and exciting day when President Obama is addressing and visiting the United Nations General Assembly. He will also be the first sitting US President to Chair a UN Security Council meeting.
In the League’s seven page report (available at http://www.lwvlouisville.org) released in 2007 and entitled “Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of KY.” The findings arre shocking: 1 in 4 African Americans can’t vote in KY versus nationally 1 in 12 and overall 1 in 17 versus 1 in 41 nationally. “In the US, nearly two million African Americans – or 8.25% of the African American population are disenfranchised, a rate 3 times the national average.” Note: statement from Felon Disenfranchisement & American Democracy 253 (Oxford Dictionary Press 2006). There is great concern about applicable human rights guarantees recognized under American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, etc. Once again, Ky lags behaind all other states except Virginia for disenfranchisement of former felons.

80% of the population queried in a study wants rights restored. The League and UN Association asks for re-enfranchisement of former felons. The National Sentencing Project (for a decade had lead and advocated for reform at federal and state levels) reports an international momentum in “support of reform among treaty monitoring bodies at the UN and in jurisprudence in a number of countries.” Note: statement from September 21, 2009 Disenfranchisement news from the Sentencing Project.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee and others are documenting the impact of disenfranchisement policies. And in 1963 President John Kennedy founded the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) to secure, through law, equal justice via pro bono help to represent vicims of discrimination and more. In 2005, No.2, 681, Eur.Ct.H.R. in Hirst v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights found the right to vote is indeed a right and not a privilege. Others found: “Foreign constitutional courts have found that the disqualification of prisoner from voting violates basic democratic principles.” #47. Denial via blanket voting ban on persons with various convictions does not serve a legitimate aim of the state and is disproportionate to the offence charged or sentence imposed.”

Basically, former felons don’t feel like part of society, lack self respect, one told me he wouldn’t even say the Pledge of Alliance. They are relegated to a civic isolation and deprived of a sense of collective identity and membership in the community.

The League Recommendations to enhance voting:
– A ballot measure to consider amending the KY Constitution so that people living in the community and who have completed their sentence have their voting rights restored automatically. Let the public vote on this issue.
– To inform prisoners about the process to apply and offer technical help with accessing records. Help them dot the i’s and cross the t’s as well as remembering to Sign the application!
– 3 months prior to completion of sentence, provide assistance (could be organizations helping or current employees).
– Public education by Sec. of State, Dept. of Corrections, Adm. Office of the Courts to tell former felons to also register to vote after rights are restored, etc.
– Having the number of voting resotration applications and number of those approved given by The Department of corrections, The Sec.of State’s Office and the Governor’s Office each year.

In conclusion, voting is the most fundamental expression of citizenship. Both LWV and UNA believe that every citizen of our commonwealth should be protected in the right to vote.
Thank you.

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24 Responses to Testimony on Restoring Former Felons’ Voting Rights

  1. Beverly Moore says:

    Would it be possible for the LWV-KY to send a letter with a follow-up phone call to all local leagues asking them to contact and lobby their representatives and senators on this issue? asking them to report back on their representatives’ responses?

    • lwvky says:

      We have already urged our members throughout the state to get in touch with their own representative asking them to support automatic restoration of former felons’ voting rights (see post entitled “Felon Voting Rights Position”) on this website. We will be asking for representatives’ responses throughout the session when the subject comes up before each chamber. Thanks for your suggestion and please follow along during the upcoming session to see how this piece of legislation fares.

  2. April Leming says:

    I am curious as to whom I would speak with to get my rights restored? I was charged with a felony in Ky. in 1992 and in Ohio in 2001 was charged with another felony. I am wanting to restore my rights to vote and to own a firearm.

    • lwvky says:

      You need to get in touch with Governor Beshear to find out how to apply for a pardon so that you can have your voting rights restored.

    • lwvky says:

      If you will write to:
      Kentucky Department of Corrections,
      Community Services-Probation & Parole
      PO Box 2400
      Frankfort, KY 40602-2400
      you will receive a form, which is an application for Restoration of Civil Rights. You need to have your civil rights restored as a first step towards restoration of voting rights.

  3. QFDaniel says:

    Actually,good post. thx

    • lwvky says:

      FYI we will be updating information about the bill supporting former felon’s voting rights as it goes through the Kentucky legislature.

  4. I’ve been following your blog for 5 days now and I should tell you I get something new from your article. and now how do I subscribe to your blog?

    • lwvky says:

      You just need to log on to our website http://www.lwvky.org Thank you for your interest in our website and the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.

    • lwvky says:

      Our blog is free. Just access our website http://www.lwvky.org to see our newsletters and other news. We are still tracking the KY bills we are interested in and will put up an update next week on this website.

    • lwvky says:

      Our blog is free. Just access our website http://www.lwvky.org to read our newsletters and other information that may be of interest to you.

    • lwvky says:

      Our blog is free. We post news of interest from time to time to our members and fellow citizens having to do with non-partisan information about laws and elections. Check out our newsletters tab. Thank you!

    • lwvky says:

      Our blog is free. We put nonpartisan information of interest to our members and the general public about laws and elections. Check out our newletters tab and check our updates from time to time. Thank you for your interest in the League of Women Voters of Kentucky website.

  5. This is always helpful

  6. You have made my day a little bit easier to take after reading your article.

  7. Hello,this is Margareta Toren,just observed your Blog on google and i must say this blog is great.may I quote some of the article found in this blog to my local buddies?i’m not sure and what you think?anyway,Thank you!

    • lwvky says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our website http://www.lwvky.org for information instead of quoting us. Sometimes we are inadvertently misquoted. And thank you for your interest in having the voting rights restored of those former felons in Kentuckywho have paid their debt to society!

    • lwvky says:

      Hi, Margaret, Just in case you did not get my reply to your message, I am repeating it. (I am just learning to reply to the comments we receive on our website).

      Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our website http://www.lwvky.org for information instead of quoting us. Sometimes we are inadvertently misquoted. And thank you for your interest in having the voting rights restored of those former felons in Kentuckywho have paid their debt to society! Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our website http://www.lwvky.org for information instead of quoting us. Sometimes we are inadvertently misquoted. And thank you for your interest in having the voting rights restored of those former felons in Kentuckywho have paid their debt to society! kentuckylwv@gmail.com lwvky 1

  8. hey,this is Garfield Lobur,just discovered your Post on google and i must say this blog is great.may I quote some of the Post found in this website to my local mates?i am not sure and what you think?in any case,Thanks!

    • lwvky says:

      Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our site, lwvky.org instead of quoting us. And thank you for your interest in securing voting rights for those former felons who have paid their debt to society in Kentucky.

    • lwvky says:

      Hi, Garfield, Just in case you did not receive my reply to your comment, I am repeating it. Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our website http://www.lwvky.org for information instead of quoting us. Sometimes we are inadvertently misquoted. And thank you for your interest in having the voting rights restored of those former felons in Kentucky who have paid their debt to society! Thank you for your interest in our blog! We would appreciate it if you would ask your friends to visit our website http://www.lwvky.org for information instead of quoting us. Sometimes we are inadvertently misquoted. And thank you for your interest in having the voting rights restored of those former felons in Kentuckywho have paid their debt to society! kentuckylwv@gmail.com lwvky 1

  9. Absorbing article. I know I’m a little late in posting my comment but the article was to the point and just the information I was looking for. I can’t say that I agree with all you mentioned but it was emphatically fascinating! BTW…I found your site through a Yahoo search. I hope you’ll allow me to post a link to a site pertinent to the quote by John Kennedy discussed in your piece. I’m an occasional visitor to your blog and will return again soon.

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