balancing the scales, June 10, 2013
Voting Rights Update
Voting rights gets national attention on PBS’ Constitution USA
KFTC members continue to advance their campaign to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society – through field work, citizen lobbying and other actions. Here are a few highlights from recent weeks:
● PBS nationally aired an episode
of Constitution USA on May 21 that included a long piece about voting rights in Kentucky and an interview with KFTC leader Tayna Fogle. Members have held strategy meetings throughout the state focused on reaching key Republican sena-
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tors and building their support for House Bill 70. Please contact your local KFTC organizer if you’d like to be part of the next round of meetings with legislators. Passing HB 70 is still KFTC’s primary goal in restoring voting rights to former felons. KFTC made presentations at the Chrysalis House and Bluegrass Reentry Council. KFTC continued interviews with former felons across the state to help capture and tell their stories. Members engaged in the secretary of state’s town hall meetings on election procedures (see separate article for details).
● KFTC’s Voter Empowerment Strat-
In national news, the Republican Governor of Virginia Robert McDonnell took a big step to restore voting rights to former felons by executive pardon. The measure excludes Virginians convicted of more serious crimes, including some
drug related crimes (about 40 percent of the total). It’s also not a blanket measure, so former felons still need to be identified individually to get their rights back, but it’s a big step forward. This most recent move leaves Kentucky arguably farther behind than any other U.S. state in having a navigable re-enfranchisement process. KFTC members will participate in a statewide Voting Rights Coalition meeting on Wednesday, June 19 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the UFCW Union Hall (330 Pinecroft Drive in Louisville). KFTC members and representatives from other organizations who have been working on this issue are welcome to attend.
Women Voters and the AARP, it wouldn’t be possible to have smooth representative elections in Kentucky. KFTC members and allies also brought up the issue of restoration of voting rights for former felons who have served their debt to society. Grimes expressed her support in no uncertain terms, and the overwhelming majority of people attending the meetings have agreed. News reports from Paducah and northern Kentucky events have focused on the restoration of voting rights for former felons issue and its broad support. But KFTC members talked about a variety of other issues at the town meet-
ings, from disability access to the polls to same-day voter registration, long lines and more. “To have a real democracy, we need a lot more people voting than this,” said Virginia Johnson, a northern Kentucky KFTC member who participated in the forum. “With due respect, the system is broken for a lot of Kentuckians. We need longer voting hours and better access and to get more people involved. That’s how you get a real democracy.” There’s one last meeting set for Thursday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. in Richmond at the Madison County Extension Office, 230 Duncannon Lane.
egy Team engaged in a broader conversation to envision what an authentic participatory democracy would look like and what steps Kentuckians could take to get there. This means looking more seriously and broadly at other laws related to voting access, like same-day voter registration, longer voting hours, campaign finance and more.
Secretary of state gathers input on Kentucky election process
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has been conducting a series of town meetings to gather input on election laws and practices. The meetings are focused on a series of questions such as, “What are your thoughts about our current voter registration process?” “18 states offer online voter registration. Should we try to move in that direction?” and “What is your election day experience like?”
KFTC members and allies made it out to meetings in Kenton County, Paducah, Rowan County and Louisville to speak out about these issues, pushing for a more robust representative democracy that makes it easier to access polls and exercise their duty as citizens. At the beginning of the event in northern Kentucky, Grimes recognized KFTC and said that without KFTC and other civic groups like the League of
Recently, Rep. Carl Rollins stepped down from his state House seat, which covers Woodford County, parts of Franklin County, and a small piece of western Fayette County. There will be a special election to fill the vacancy. The election is set for Tuesday, June 25, and polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. On the ballot are: Lyen Crews (R) James Kay II (D) John-Mark Hack (I)
Central Kentucky KFTC members are engaging in the race by sending surveys to the candidates about key issues, then circulating the candidates’ stances through www.KentuckyElection.org, a mailing to voters and phone calls to members in the district. Members will also be out in Versailles on the day of the election, passing out information, giving rides, holding signs and maybe even running a sound car. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Beth Howard, the Central Kentucky KFTC organizer, at 859-276-0563 or email@example.com. And if you know anyone in the district, please ask them to vote and visit www.KentuckyElection.org before they do. With no regular elections scheduled in Kentucky in 2013, this will be one of the few opportunities to get involved directly in electoral work this year.
56th District special election
Around 200 KFTC members live in the district, plus an additional 200 people who have signed petitions or otherwise been connected to KFTC’s work. This is a significant number, given that voter turnout in the special election is likely to be low, the votes might be close, and KFTC members tend to be very reliable voters.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (standing) has been traveling the state hosting town meetings to gather input on election laws and practices.