According to Fox News, the newly elected governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear signed an executive order last week to restore the right to vote to up to 140,000 people with non-violent felony convictions – an inaugural promise he made just days ago after being sworn in.
The order applies to Kentuckians who have committed non-violent offenses and have completed their sentences and does not include sex offenders, rapists or murderers, Beshear, a Democrat, said to a group of voting rights supporters.
Mr Beshear criticized the state’s high rate of “disenfranchisement” for convicts.
“It is an injustice,” Beshear says. “It is a racial injustice. And this executive order helps get us on track to writing a lot of wrongs.”
“I believe it is an injustice that their ability to fully rejoin society by casting a vote on election day is automatically denied regardless of the circumstances of their offense,” he said.
“When people vote, they’re showing they’re invested in our democracy, in our society and in their communities.”
“My faith teaches me forgiveness,” Beshear said. “We all make mistakes.”
The move reinstates an executive order implemented by Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, in 2015 that was reversed by Republican successor Matt Bevin, whom Andy Beshear defeated by a slim margin last month and Bevin conceded to Beshear in the most recent election.
Kentucky was one of just two states with a blanket, lifetime voting ban on felons. Currently, Iowa is the only other state left with the restrictive laws.
This has led to a wave of voting rights expansions for felons across the country, at the peak of a decades-long movement against disenfranchisement.
Beshear also voiced support for a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons, which has been championed by Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The Democratic governor was joined by two former felons, Rynn Young and Amanda Bourland, who both served time for drug possession charges nearly two decades ago and lost their rights to vote when they were 18 years old.
Young, who was convicted in 1998 and is now a salesman and father of twin 21-month-old daughters, called the order “an early Christmas gift” from Beshear.
“Trust me,” Young said, “twenty-one years without a voice is unimaginable, believe me. I just appreciate the opportunity for a second chance.”