Wed February 19, 2014
Rand Paul's Support Boosts Weakened Kentucky Felon Voting Rights Bill
Update: The full state Senate has approved the amended felon voting rights bill. The vote was 34-4.
Earlier: U.S. Senator Rand Paul has given a boost to a state bill that would restore the voting rights of some felons.
A committee substitute to HB 70 would reduce the number of felons affected by 55 percent. An estimated 128,000 felons in Kentucky would have been affected by the original law—now, only half of them will be. The rest must seek executive pardons.
Paul spoke Wednesday before the Kentucky Senate State and Local Government Committee in support of the measure, which then cleared the committee.
Paul says the majority of felons affected by the bill are nonviolent drug-users who are victims of the War on Drugs, and he appealed to lawmakers’ compassion.
He noted the higher incarceration rates of African-Americans in Kentucky, where a fifth of black adults cannot vote due to a felony record. “There was a time in our society where there were intentional incarcerations based on race," Paul says. "I don’t think it’s intentional, but there … has become a racial outcome on who’s incarcerated in our country, and I think that’s something that has to be addressed here. Because not only is the incarceration, I think, unfair, then they get out and the voting rights are impaired.”
The bill was amended to included mandatory five-year waiting period for felons and an exemption for those with multiple offenses.
“Most of us are Christians in this room," says Paul, a Republican. "This isn’t a religious, you know, exclusion or an exercise that you have to be Christian, but most of us believe in redemption, most of us believe in a second chance. I think we should get a second chance to vote, but also to work. You wanna keep people from committing crimes? Let ‘em work again.”