Frankfort woman with a felony in her past, voting for the first time in years

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – One Frankfort woman says she’s grateful to get the opportunity to have her voting rights restored in time for voting in 2020.

In December 2019, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order to allow people with non-violent felony convictions to vote again.

Debra Graner says she’s one of those people.

“Just because you make a mistake, doesn’t mean that you’re worthless,” she said.

Debra Graner says when she moved to Kentucky with her husband, it wasn’t an easy transition and she fell into a depression.

“I always kidded the only person I ever talked to on a regular basis was a clerk at Rite-Aid over on the side of town,” she said.

That led to drinking and one night she says a mix of vodka and lighting candles caught their rental home on fire.

She was convicted of arson in 2012. She never went to prison, but finished her probation by 2017.

“It makes a world of difference and making you feel like a complete person and a member of the society,” she said.

Now, she works with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to make others aware they can vote.

“Being able to vote is healing. And it’s just a wonderful experience and I’m so thankful that I was able to vote in the primary,” Graner said.

The Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is also working with people impacted by the criminal justice system.
“A felony is an act. It’s not a person,” Marcus Jackson said.

He’s the organizing coordinator for ACLU-KY’s Smart Justice program.

Jackson says restoring voting rights is emotional.

“It’s an opportunity to get rid of that stigma attached with that incarceration, you can, a lot of people can finally put it behind them. And that’s huge,” he said.

But in Kentucky, this might not be permanent.

The next Kentucky governor could remove these voting rights as quickly as Governor Beshear signed them back in.

“It’s a back and forth game and it’s confusing to a lot of people, and it can also be traumatic to a lot of people,” he said.

A challenge Debra Graner says she’s not backing down from.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” Graner said.

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