the kentucky state house on wednesday rejected the senate's changes to a voting rights bill reducing the number of people eligible for voting rights restoration by half. the original bill, hb 70, would give voters the opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment enacting automatic rights restoration for most individuals with felony convictions.
in previous years, similar bills which passed in the democratic-controlled house always failed in the republican-controlled senate. last month, the senate approved the voting rights bill for the first time, but only after adding several restrictions, including a five-year waiting period and exclusions for individuals with multiple prior offenses.
according to an analysis by the league of women voters in kentucky, the senate's restrictive version of hb 70 would delay or deny the restoration of voting rights for over 55% of the 180,000 people in kentucky currently banned from voting due to felony disenfranchisement policies.
earlier this month, a 50th anniversary reenactment of a civil rights march on frankfurt became a rally for voting rights. thousands gathered near the state capitol to hear speakers urge support for the original hb 70. later that day, house legislators rejected the senate's changes to the bill. if the senate doesn't drop its changes, hb 70 goes to a conference committee to hopefully reach a compromise.
carl wicklund, executive director of the american probation and parole association, wrote an op-ed in the lexington herald leader a few weeks ago, urging the state legislature to pass hb 70 in its original form, without the senate's restrictive changes. he feels successful parole and probation systems prevent future crime by helping individuals reintegrate into their communities - rather than continuing to punish them after serving time.
wicklund believes voting rights are an important part of effectively becoming a productive member of society. he says, "civic participation strengthens the ties between...individuals and their fellow citizens. when people vote, they are making an investment in their community."
last month, the herald-dispatch published an editorial in support of hb 70, lauding the state for moving forward on voting rights. the piece affirmed current probation and parole systems already provide a reasonable waiting period. still, the authors conclude, even the senate's restrictive version of the bill would "be a step forward for kentucky that we hope voters would approve."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.