Kentucky is one of the only states in the country that does not give felons their right to vote back after they finish parole.
Should felons get that right back? You may be able to decide on November’s ballot.
The senate passed a bill to create a constitutional amendment about felons’ voting rights; however, the bill the senators voted for is different than the one the house overwhelmingly passed.
The house version automatically restores voting rights to felons when they finish parole. The bill excludes people convicted of intentional killings and sex crimes. The senate version adds on a 5-year waiting period.
After the vote nobody in the crowd clapped. The had of Louisville’s NAACP called the senate’s version a blueprint for suppression.
We spoke to two convicted felons in jail almost one year ago.
"I feel as though if you got a voice, then it should be heard," said Gregory Evans, who was convicted for facilitating a robbery.
"We’re not all bad people. We’ve all made mistakes in our lives. We’re being punished for it now. We’ve become better people while we’re in here, and I believe that should not affect our right to vote," said Richard Kyle, who was convicted for receiving stolen property.
Kyle and Evans are now out of jail.
Representative Jesse Crenshaw proposes this bill every year. It’s called HB-70, and the senate has never voted on it.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said without the five-year waiting period the bill would never come up for a vote.
"There ought to be some level of gratitude that we are here today having this conversation," said Senator Damon Thayer, Majority Floor Leader.
Crenshaw said the senate version is not the same as HB-70, and he wouldn’t support it.
We asked Crenshaw if he considered the senate committee’s vote progress.
"Let me go to another question please. If there is one, and if there is not I’ll see you all later. No, I don’t think it is as good as 70! I sat here, and said that for four hours," said Representative Crenshaw.
The meeting lasted for about one hour.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul testified in favor of felons getting their voting rights back. He wants to stay out of the sausage making, and focus on the bigger picture.
"We have a cycle here of crime and poverty and drugs that we need to try and get out of. I think a step forward is trying to do something about voting rights," said Senator Paul.
The bill will go to a conference committee where representatives and senators will hash out one bill to send to the Governor.