Voting Rights News

Northern Kentuckians debate restoring felons' right to vote

May 23, 2013
Kentucky Enquirer

Restoring the voting rights to felons ranked among the reforms some Northern Kentuckians would like to see Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes advocate for.

Dozens of Northern Kentuckians Wednesday night at Dixie Heights High School told Grimes what they like and dislike about Kentucky's voting laws. Grimes visited Northern Kentucky as part of five town halls she will conduct around the state this year to get input on voting laws.

Madison County members learn together and discuss opportunities for engagement at May chapter meeting

May 23, 2013 at 05:46pm
Madison County

The Madison County chapter had a good, thoughtful chapter meeting this past Monday, May 20, in the beautiful Appalachian Center gallery at Berea College.

05.20.13 Madison County chapter meeting

After a great icebreaker, Meta Mendel-Reyes facilitated an exercise from Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Everyone looked at a list of a couple dozen statements having to do with everyday life and checked off the ones they felt were true for them. This led to a discussion of how people felt about these statements and what they found surprising.

Democracy Voices - Sean O'Donley, Hardin County

May 23, 2013 at 05:07pm

gIMG_0285Sean O'Donley lives in Hardin County and works next door in Louisville as a network maintenance technician for the cable company.  

He also works on racing car engines with his dad (at O'Donley Racing), likes to hunt, fish, and kayak when there's time.  

"Though mostly I work," he tells me, smiling.  "I stay pretty busy between my job and my family."

Sean grew up between McCraken and Caldwell counties in Western Kentucky and has lived in KY all his life.  "I like it here and can't say I've ever had a reason to leave," Sean says.  

He also follows politics. "Democrats think Democrats are smartest and Republicans think Republicans are the smartest," Sean says, laughing a little.  "But I think we've all got to work together."  

"Overall, I consider myself a Republican."

Although at 28 years old, Sean just recently got the right to vote for the first time in his life.

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 jaredzarantonello@gmail.com

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."

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