Voting Rights News | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Voting Rights News

Secretary of State meeting in northern Kentucky a success

May 23, 2013 at 12:19pm

100_1462Last night, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes held a second town meeting, this one in Kenton County, to gather input from the public about election laws and processes in Kentucky. 

About 60 people attended in all, including representatives from local county clerks' offices, political party groups, and Northern Kentucky KFTC members. 

At the beginning of the event, Grimes recognzed KFTC and said that without us and other civic groups like the League of Women Voters, it wouldn't be possible to have smooth representative elections in Kentucky.

The format was simple - a 60 minute discussion facilitated by Alison Lundergan Grimes. There was some context at the beginning and some recognition of county clerks' office representatives, and then the audience was asked questions like "What are your thoughts about our current voter registration process?" "18 states offer online voter registration. Should we try to move in that direction?" "What is your election day experience like?" and "32 states allow early voting. Should we allow no-excuse early voting in Kentucky too?" 

A few KFTC members were prepared to bring up the issue of restoration of voting rights for former felons who have served their debt to society, but Grimes beat us to it. She expressed her support in no uncertain terms and many people throughout the room voiced their support as well.  This included Jim Cole, a representative of the AFL-CIO.

Jefferson County Chapter discusses local issues

May 21, 2013 at 02:36pm

Last week’s Jefferson County Chapter meeting kicked off with a brief report from Mary Love about Alliance for Appalachia’s 8th Annual Week in Washington. Mary was a member of the KFTC delegation again this year. The Alliance focuses not only on ending mountaintop removal mining but is also working toward a just and sustainable transition in Appalachia.

Jared Zarantonello gave a presentation on WFOR Forward Radio, “a community-based, low power FM radio start-up and media project operating as an educational arm of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in pursuit of peace and social justice. WFOR seeks to create a network of community partners to aid in building a more diverse and relevant model of media. This will ensure that our diverse local voices that are ignored by the mainstream media are heard and that the public interest is served through media.”

During the presentation, members shared their ideas for radion programming: story on the mission of St. George’s Community Center, Strange Fruit Podcast on LGBTQ issues, stories from TARC users, biking issues in Louisville, info from AARP, helping folks figure out if they owe taxes, and energy efficiency and renewables. If you have ideas you would like to share or if you want to learn more about WFOR contact Jared at, 502-468-6519 or

Secretary of State meetings gathering input on election laws

May 9, 2013 at 02:31pm

35421_1360070120623_1197630007_30870127_3370161_nThe Kentucky Secretary of State's office is setting up a series of town meetings across the state to review and recommend improvements to Kentucky’s election laws.

A few have already happened, but four upcoming meetings are:

• Wednesday, May 22 – Kenton County - 5:30pm at Dixie Heights Highschool

• Monday, June 3 – McCracken County - 12:30pm.  Robert Cherry Civic Center, 2701 Park Avenue, Paducah, KY

• Thursday, June 6th – Jefferson County - 12:30pm.  Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. 6th Street, Louisville, KY

• Thursday, June 20 – Madison County - 5:30pm.  Madison County Extension Office, 230 Duncannon Lane, Richmond, KY

*blog updated on 5/9,  5/20, and 5/30 to reflect shifting times and locations.  See the bottom of the blog entry for more information. 

This could be an excellent time for KFTC members and allies to make the case for changes we would like to see in our democracy - from expanding voting rights to former felons, lengthening voting hours, or limiting the power of corporations and large donors.

As three of these 4 meetings are in KFTC chapter areas, we'd like to encourage our members to come out to them and speak their minds. 

You can say anything you want, but we created a template (adapted from the earlier blue ribbon tax commission hearings) that might help you think through what to say:

Voting Rights featured on Constitution USA on PBS - May 21st

May 9, 2013 at 11:46am

gDSC_0448PBS is running a dynamic, interesting, and accessible series about the US Constitution entitled Constitution USA. with new episodes in the series every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. central).  Locally, the program is on KET.

Coming up on May 21st, their episode will include a focus on voting rights for former felons and will include footage from one our last year's Singing For Democracy Gospel Festivals and interviews with KFTC leader Tayna Fogle and others. 

We're excited to see this story reaching a national audience. 

We've not yet gotten to see any footage of the episode, but we encourage you all to tune in on May 21st!

Former Felon Voices - Mark Romines, Louisville

April 22, 2013 at 02:56pm

Mark RominesIn an attempt to share more of the stories from former felons across the Commonwealth, we’re presenting a series of short interviews every few weeks on our blog and in our newsletter balancing the scales.

Mark Romines is a Louisville, Kentucky native. He has been happily married for 32 years and has a son, 2 daughters, and 2 grandchildren. Mark has been a member of the Volunteers in Police Services program for 7 years. He is a volunteer usher at the University of Louisville basketball and football games and a member of his local homeowners’ association. Mark is also active with KFTC’s Coal Ash campaign. Mark is a carpenter by trade and served in the military. In his spare time he enjoys watching college sports and riding his motorcycle and ATV.
Mark lost his right to vote in Kentucky almost 40 years ago after being convicted on a drug charge in Nebraska. At the time he was not aware that he was considered a felon. “I was placed on probation and didn’t spend any time in jail.” It wasn’t until he received a call from the ATF more than 20 years later asking that he surrender a hunting rifle he had recently purchased that Mark found out he was a former felon.

Danny Cotton - We were lucky to have him

April 18, 2013 at 03:44pm
Central Kentucky

Danny Cotton, a KFTC leader and member of the Central KY Chapter and the statewide Voter Empowerment Strategy Team passed away earlier this month.  He was 27 years old.

He was a writer, an activist, a great thinker, and a great friend to many of us.  

KFTC first got to meet Danny at Fancy Farm, a political event in far Western KY.  Even before we met, he was holding a big sign opposing a massive state subsidy for Peabody Coal.

After that, Danny became one of our most prolific citizen lobbyists, visiting Frankfort day after day to talk to legislators about a range of issues important to him, though he focused voting rights issues.

And he returned to Fancy Farm and dozens of other events every year, usually in his trademark green KFTC t-shirt with its sleeves cut off.  

He was also a KFTC intern while he studied at UK, and helped to form the UK KFTC group which is still doing great things today.

Danny also loved registering and mobilizing voters and he was good at it, participating in large scale voter registration events in Lexington that brought in hundreds of new voters to build up our Democracy.  

After his funeral over a dozen former UK KFTC members who went to school with Danny gathered for a cook out, to listen to some of Danny's favorite music (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Led Zeppelin), read some of the things he'd written, told stories about Danny's life.

Stories shared from around the room shifted from off-color stories of shenanigans and misadventures to moments of profound levity, admiration, regret, and hope - the kind of sense one might get from reading Mark Twain or talking to Danny Cotton.

"Danny was a good friend and a good man. His loyalty and friendship was always something I could count on. His passion and empathy will truly be missed" - John Ghaelian

"He was a genuinely kind and understanding person -- the kind that we need more of in this world." - Wesley Robinson

Former Felon Voices - Mantell Stevens, Lexington

April 16, 2013 at 10:55am

Mantell Stevens 2In an attempt to share more of the stories from former felons across the Commonwealth, we’re presenting a series of short interviews every few weeks on our blog and in our newsletter balancing the scales.

Mantell Stevens is a life-long Kentuckian who's a smart guy, works hard, volunteers at Imani Baptist Church, and enjoys the outdoors. “I’m really a country boy. I like getting muddy and riding four-wheelers.”

But what he can't do is vote.  Though he's telling his story to help change that.  

"I was born and raised here in Lexington and been here all my life. I've lived on the Northside of town for the past 33 years. Growing up life was pretty good. I grew up with both parents in the household. I was fortunate enough to witness a good marriage between my parents. I’m really grateful for that."

"In the early years I was into theatre. In elementary school I was a student in SCAPA - the school of creative and performing arts student. When I transitioned to a public middle school is when I started to have more behavior problems – coming from a structured environment to a more chaotic environment. And struggling with a lot of identity issues coming from middle school to high school. I would get called “white boy” a lot because I had light skin, I talked “different” and tucked my shirt in. So, in my neighborhood I felt I had to prove myself and started getting into trouble. I was a big guy so I started trying to prove that I could intimidate people and that I wasn’t soft like they thought I was."

Videos from Voting Rights Rally in Frankfort

March 18, 2013 at 04:24pm

On March 6th we had a powerful lobby day and rally about Voting Rights in Frankfort.  Here are some videos from the speakers, most of which are former felons themselves.

Interviewing Former Felons and Telling Their Stories

March 18, 2013 at 03:41pm

IMG_1389Interviewing former felons and communicating out their stories is critical to the strategy of our campaign to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society.

It’s a way of  challenging what people think they know about who former felons are and showing them a range of people at least some of whom they feel like they can relate to - different ages, races, backgrounds, and hometowns. 

If someone can see a piece of themselves or their family and neighbors in a former felon’s story, or respect or look up to their accomplishments, that connection can make it easier to understand the issue and support restoration of voting rights. 

Here are some examples of interviews we've conducted in the past.

We use these stories in a lot of different ways - stories on our blog, shared through Facebook, in our newsletter balancing the scales, in large signs and on factsheets, or full stories sent to the media or to legislators. 

If you're a former felon interested in being interviewed about the right to vote, or if you know someone who might be, please contact your local KFTC organizer or Dave Newton 859-420-8919.

Expand Voting Rights, Protect Civil Rights

March 10, 2013 at 05:24pm

lobby1With just four working days left for the Kentucky General Assembly, our actions may influence the important final outcome for two bills.

Voting Rights

Our democracy could be strengthened if Senate leaders would allow House Bill 70 to have a hearing and vote. This legislation would place on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment to allow automatic restoration of voting rights once a person has completed their sentence for most felony convictions, as happens in most other states. HB 70 passed the House, 75-25, nearly three weeks ago but is stuck in the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Help us make one more push to get Senate leaders to open the door to voting for nearly a quarter of a million Kentuckians.

ACTION: Please call the Legislative Message Line, 1-800-372-7181, and leave a message for your own senator plus "Senate leadership" and "Senate State and Local Government Committee members." A good, simple message is "Please allow a hearing and vote on House Bill 70." The line is open 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. EDT. If you have already contacted your senator on this issue, please do so again.

Civil Rights Helpful information

You can follow KFTC's bills on our bill tracker page.

Legislative Message Line

Legislator's Office Direct

TTY Message Line

En Español

Make a donation to KFTC to support our work in the General Assembly

A bill that allows any individual to “act or refuse to act on religious grounds” has passed the House and Senate and been to delivered to Gov. Steve Beshear. House Bill 279 is written so broadly that it could be used to subvert existing civil rights laws in Kentucky that protect individuals from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

HB 279 has the potential to “make it harder to pursue criminal prosecutions and civil remedies in everything from child abuse to housing discrimination,” according to a Lexington Herald-Leader editorial, and is “a slippery slope when the state authorizes people to disregard laws,” wrote The Courier-Journal editors.

ACTION: Join the Fairness Campaign, ACLU, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, KFTC and other groups in asking Gov. Beshear to “Please veto House Bill 279.” You can do so by leaving him a message at 502-564-2611 or by using his online form at:

Thanks for taking one or both of these actions.
Please do so on Monday starting at 7 a.m.