There's a Constitutional Amendment on Tuesday's Ballot

All Kentucky voters will be asked to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment called Marsy's Law on Tuesday's ballot. We encourage all of our members to do some research before voting and we've provded a basic start below.

This measure might put into place expanded constitutional rights for crime victims during the judicial process.

Votes on this issue will be counted; however, a judge has ruled that the ballot measure is so vaguely worded that the vote can't be certified. “The electorate cannot be expected to vote on a Constitutional amendment of which they are not adequately informed of the substance,” Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate's order said.

However, there remains a possibility that the judicial ruling could be overturned some time after the election, leading to a confusing situation where there might be signs up at polling locations rightly telling voters that their vote on this issue won’t count, but then later after the election it might count after all.


WHAT DOES A YES VOTE MEAN?

A “yes” vote might add Marsy’s Law to the Kentucky constitution.


WHAT DOES A NO VOTE MEAN?

A “no” vote does not add Marsy’s Law to the Kentucky Constitution. Instead, victims of crime would continue to rely on the “Kentucky Crime Victim Bill of Rights” as well as the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) nationwide system for updates on changes related to their case.


DEEPER DIVE

Marsy's Law claims to gives victims rights (usually already existing in state law) such as a) notice of all case events, b) to be present at the trial, c) to proceedings free of delay, d) to meet with an attorney, e) to protections from the accused, f) to notice of the release of the accused, g) to keep the victim’s safety and the family’s safety in mind when releasing the accused, h) to full restitution to be paid to the victim, i) to consideration of the victim’s privacy, and j) to be informed of the rights generated by Marsy’s law. Opponents of this law like the ACLU of Kentucky believe that Marsy’s law creates a new set of “rights” that come into direct conflict with the state and federal constitutional rights afforded to criminal defendants like a) due process b) right to a speedy trial c) the right to be informed of and question the evidence against him or her, and d) protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Further, Marsy’s Law fails to lay out any way to reconcile these conflicts and does not provide any funding or structure to meet some of its mandates.


WHY VOTE YES?

According to Caroline Ruschell of The Courier-Journal, the few rights crime victims in Kentucky are afforded at present aren’t enforceable under current law, so there isn’t consistency in the way in which these victims are treated. Amending the Kentucky Constitution to include Marsy’s Law would create this consistency, ensuring fair treatment of all crime victims.

According to Steve Petranik in The Courier-Journal, some believe that the accused enjoy more rights than crime victims themselves, biasing the justice system against the person already harmed. Enacting Marsy’s Law would rectify this.

According to Steve Conrad of the Louisville Metro Police Department, Kentucky is one of 15 states that does not guarantee constitutional rights or protections for victims of crime. While Kentucky has a Victim Bill of Rights, it does not provide concrete constitutional rights for victims. By adding Marsy's Law to the constitution, Kentucky will be able to better uphold victims’ rights and protect crime victims.


WHY VOTE NO?

According to ACLU of Kentucky, Marsy’s Law will worsen existing racial and economic inequalities in the justice system. Marsy’s Law does not assure that victims of crime are entitled to attorneys; only those with the resources to hire a private attorney will have meaningful access to the courts, leaving poor victims under-served. While crime victims in Kentucky have access to the resources that Marsy’s Law claims to create, we do need more investment in services for victims of crime. For example, we should fund more victim’s advocate positions across the commonwealth. Marsy’s Law would not do any of that.  By undermining the rights of Kentuckians accused of a crime, we will further exacerbate the problems in a criminal system where you are better off rich and guilty than poor and innocent.