James Snyder | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

James Snyder

James Snyder 1"I'm a veteran of 9 years in the U.S. Army infantry. My dad was in the military and I grew up on army bases. Both my grandfathers served in the military, too." 

But despite this service and more, James Snyder does not have the right to vote here in Kentucky. 

"I pay taxes, but I'm not represented. Effectively, I'm not a citizen because citizenship means having a voice in government through the ballot box. It just doesn't seem right to me."

James has lived in Illinois for the last few years, working as a deputy voter registrar for the board of elections in Illinois - helping people register and vote.  And when he lived there, of course, he could vote.  Kentucky is one of just 4 states that take away voting rights from all former felons even after they've served their debt to society.

"My parents aren't doing so well, so I'm back in Kentucky to take care of them and help around the house. Because I'm on this side of the border of Illinois, I can't vote."

"The most recent of my two felony convictions is over 14 years old and neither of them are from Kentucky. In fact, if I lived in either of those states, they recognize that I've served my debt to society and I could vote there."

James Snyder and Dave Newton croppedEven with substantial political ties, James found it hard to know if he even had the right to vote in Kentucky.

"I talked to a few different lawyers and I got conflicting answers. Frankly, I could have gotten away with registering and voting because Kentucky would be unlikely to compare lists with other states, but credibility is important to me, so I spent a lot of effort to understand whether or not I have the right to vote here. It seems I don't."

As a Scott County resident, James Snyder's own Senator is Damon Thayer, the legislator who has prevented HB 70 from coming up for a vote in recent years in his Senate State and Local Government Committee.  

Snyder joined KFTC for his first citizen lobby day in Frankfort a few days ago and is looking forward to talking to Thayer in person. 

"I served my country, with due respect, more than any legislator I see that's standing in the way of this legislation. And I served my time for what I've done wrong, too. The right thing to do would be to let me and others like me to vote." 

"It renders moot the idea that "if you don't vote, you can't complain." I'm complaining because I can't vote."

James is doing better than that – networking with people in Scott County through KFTC and otherwise to gain voting rights for former felons and for a host of other issues he cares about, too. 

"I can join in politics in other ways – and I do because it's important to me – but not being able to vote sure does make it harder."

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