Less than a month after taking office, Kentucky’s newly elected Republican Gov. Matt Bevin reversed a move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored the voting rights of about 140,000 former felons.
Those impacted, who are overwhelmingly African American and lower income, had already completed their felony sentences but remained permanently disenfranchised. The order excluded those convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, bribery or treason.
Bevin’s move Tuesday night goes against promises he made during the campaign to keep the restoration of voting rights in place. He even told reporters in November that he would stand up to his own party on the issue and convince them it was the right thing to do. Now, thanks to his order, tens of thousands of Kentuckians will not only lose the opportunity to regain their voting rights, they will also be permanently unable to serve on a jury, run for office, or obtain a vocational license.
The only explanation Bevin offered for the reversal is that he believes “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”