Kentucky has more than 312,000 people who cannot vote because of a felony conviction, a 67 percent increase from 2006.
Kentucky is one of three states, including Iowa and Virginia, that impose life- time voting bans on people with felony convictions. A report from the League of Women Voters of Kentucky shows 92 percent of those with felony convictions have been released from prison or jail and live in the community, but cannot vote.
“I think it is not a point of honor to be possibly the last state that permanently disenfranchises people,” said Judy Johnson, the felon and voting rights chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Kentucky.
The Kentucky Constitution bans convicted felons from voting, holding public office, owning a gun and serving on a jury. The governor can restore voting rights to convicted felons with a pardon. And in 2016, the state legislature passed a law allowing people convicted of nonviolent felonies to have their records expunged, a process that includes a $500 fee.
The court has granted 2,032 expungement requests between July 15, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, according to the report. The prior three governors have issued 11,500 partial pardons to restore voting rights. But since 2016, the report noted the number of people who have completed their prison sentences yet still cannot vote jumped 88.6 percent.
In 2015, former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order that would have automatically restored voting rights to some convicted felons once they have completed their sentences. But Republican Gov. Matt Bevin rescinded that order.