Voting Rights News

Voting Rights Updates

June 4, 2013 at 03:32pm

Voting Rights Rally.JPGWe’re continuing to advance our campaign to restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society – through field work, citizen lobbying, and other actions.

Here are a few highlights from recent weeks:

-  Victory in Virginia! - In national news, the Republican Governor of Virginia Robert McDonnell took some big steps to restore voting rights to former felons by executive pardon.  The measure excludes Virginians convicted of more serious crimes including some drug related crimes (about 40% total).  It’s also not a blanket measure, so former felons still need to be identified individually to get their rights back, but it’s still a big step forward.  This most recent move leaves Kentucky arguably farther behind than any other US state in having a navigable re-enfranchisement process.   You can learn more here, here, here, and here.

Do you have a Constitutional right to vote?

May 30, 2013 at 04:43pm

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillDoes the US Constitution say that you have a right to vote?

The answer may suprise you.

While several constitutional amendments prohibit discrimination based on race, sex and age, the language aways cuts carefully around just coming out and saying that you have the right to vote.  

The 15th amendment to the constitution says the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."  We usually sum that up by saying that the 15th amendment gave the right to vote to African Americans, but that's not exactly the same thing. 

And we often describe the 26th amendment as granting the right to vote to 18-20 year-olds, but what is actually says is "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."

To put it another way, there is no explicit affirmative right to vote in the US Constitution.

Sec of State Election Meeting Schedule Finalized

May 30, 2013 at 01:28pm

100_1465Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes has been conducting a series of town meetings to gather input on election laws and practices. 

The exact times and locations of the final three events are now set:

June 3rd at 12:30 p.m. CST – McCracken County:  Robert Cherry Civic Center, 2701 Park Avenue, Paducah, KY
June 6th at 12:30 p.m. EST – Jefferson County: Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. 6th Street, Louisville, KY
June 20th at 5:30 p.m. EST – Madison County:  Madison County Extension Office, 230 Duncannon Lane, Richmond, KY

The format of the input meetings is fairly straightforward.  It's a 60 minute discussion facilitated by the Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. There is some context at the beginning and some recognition of county clerks' office representatives. 

But mostly, the event is focused on a series of 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?"

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!