New Kentucky Governor Restores Voting Rights to More Than 100,000 Formerly Incarcerated

Gov.-elect Andy Beshear celebrates with supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on Nov. 5, 2019, in Louisville, Ky.
Photo: John Sommers II (Getty Images)

Fresh into his new job as governor of Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday to restore voting rights to more than 140,000 formerly incarcerated Kentuckians—a move that inordinately affects voting rights for African Americans in the Bluegrass State.

As the Washington Post reports:

On its face, Mr. Beshear’s executive order is race-blind. But the Kentuckians it affects are disproportionately African Americans — so much so that an estimated quarter of the state’s voting-age blacks are disqualified from voting, including roughly a third of voting-age black men. That is disenfranchisement on a scale so epic that it makes a mockery of democracy.

Just three days into office, Beshear made good on a campaign pledge and restored voting rights to tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders who are no longer jailed, and who have completed probation or parole, saying that his faith teaches him redemption and forgiveness.

“I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect and extend the right to vote, and to say to so many who have paid their debt that we welcome them as full members of society again,” he added.

The order also grants voting rights to those who have served their sentences but still owe fees or fines. “You can still owe money and you have your voting rights restored today,” Beshear told reporters, according to HuffPost. “There are other ways to make sure that that money is paid. We don’t want to hold back voting rights just because someone doesn’t have the same bank account as somebody else.”

Notably, the following crimes are excluded from Beshear’s executive order: treason, election bribery and violent crime, including all rapes and sexual abuse, homicide, fetal homicide and first- and second-degree assault.

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More notably, the outgoing Republican governor, Matt Bevin, who was supported by Donald Trump but alas, still lost, pardoned a slew of violent offenders on his way out the door, baffling and upsetting many.

The Washington Post reports:

Bevin issued 428 pardons since his defeat to Democrat Andy Beshear in a close election in November, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. His list includes a man convicted of reckless homicide, a convicted child rapist, a man who murdered his parents at age 16 and a woman who threw her newborn in the trash after giving birth in a flea market outhouse.

He also pardoned Dayton Jones, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy at a party, Kentucky New Era reported.

It is not unusual for governors to issue pardons as they leave office, but Bevin’s actions boggled some of the state’s attorneys, who questioned his judgment.

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No, these folks probably won’t be able to vote, but some people should never see the other side of a cage. At this point, there appears to be no rhyme or reason for Bevin’s actions, but he too apparently believes in redemption.

“I’m a big believer in second chances,” Bevin said in a message to the Post. “I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances and new pages in life.”

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In what could only be described as you-can’t-make-this-ish-up, Gov. Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, issued a similar order to restore voting rights in 2015 only to see it rescinded weeks later by…guess who? Turn-em-loose Republican Matt Bevin.

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.