UPDATE: Marsy’s Law approved, change in judges’ terms rejected

UPDATE…As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly favored amending the state’s Constitution to include what as become known as Marsy’s Law. But voters by almost the same margin were rejecting a change in the Constitution to amend the terms for some judges and other judicial officials.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WHAS11/WTVQ) – Whether voting by mail or in-person, Kentucky voters will find two constitutional amendments on their ballot.

The races with candidates are on the front of the absentee ballot and the Constitutional questions are on the back.

“Marsy’s Law is an effort to provide constitutionally protected rights to victims of crime here in the state of Kentucky,” said Emily Bonistall, Marsy’s Law for Kentucky director of outreach.

Marsy’s Law is Constitutional Amendment #1 on the Kentucky ballot. It’s named after Marsy Nicholas, a 21-year-old California student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

Supporters like Bonistall have been fighting for Marsy’s Law in Kentucky for years. In fact, in 2018, more than 868,000 Kentucky voters approved the measure but the state Supreme Court threw it out, ruling the wording on the ballot was too vague.

The court did not rule on the merits of the bill itself.

The ruling brought new wording on this year’s ballot.

If passed, it would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, such as the right to be present at trials and notified about the release of the accused.

“We are one of only 15 states that does not currently protect rights for crime victims in our constitution,” Bonistall said.

Critics include the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. In a release back in February, the ACLU said “Marsy’s Law uses inconsistent and confusing language that would be at odds with Kentuckians’ constitutional rights and create significant unintended consequences.”

There’s also debate over another amendment you’ll find on your ballot.

“This has never been proposed before,” Kentucky State Senator Whitney Westerfield said.

If passed, Constitutional Amendment #2 would change the way voters elect some state court officials.

“They extend terms of office,” Westerfield said.

For example, if passed, district court judges would have their term doubled to eight years starting in 2022. Commonwealth’s attorneys would have term limits increase from six years to eight years starting in 2030. The amendment would also raise experience requirements for district court candidates.

“I think it’s good to require more time to practice law,” he said.

Proponents of the amendment argue it would make terms of office for district judges match that of other judicial positions. Westerfield said it’s a convenience that could be harmful.

“That’s a long time to go without accountability to the voters,” Westerfield said.

If passed, these amendments would become part of the state’s constitution. It would happen as soon as the Kentucky Board of Elections certifies November’s election outcome.

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