Georgetown News-Graphic Voting Rights Op-ed | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Georgetown News-Graphic Voting Rights Op-ed

HomercropKFTC member Homer White, from Georgetown had an Op-ed published this weekend in the Georgetown New-Graphic calling upon Senator Damon Thayer (also of Georgetown) to allow HB 70 to be heard. 

House Bill 70 is a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would restore the right to vote to former felons who have served their time.

Every year it gains more and more support:  from grassroots voter-empowerment organizations, church groups, prison administrators, parole officers, and recovery organizations that help drug offenders overcome their addictions and return to full participation in the community.  This year Tea-Party activists have joined the cause, testifying before the House in favor of the bill and calling upon fellow conservatives to support the right to vote as the cornerstone of American liberty.

Every year HB70 sails through the House with strong bipartisan support.   Every year it lands in the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

And every year it just dies there.

Not because it lacks support in the Senate.  Not because the Committee holds hearings on the Bill and finds problems with it.  The only reason is that Damon Thayer—our own State Senator—uses his power as Committee Chair to kill it.  He won’t call it for a vote, won’t hold hearings, won’t put it on the agenda, won’t discuss it, won’t even mention it.

I don’t understand what he has to lose if HB70 goes forward.

When the Founding Fathers drew up the Constitution, they felt that democracy was a dangerous force, one that had to be kept within strict bounds.  Among citizens, only free property-owners could vote.

But since then Americans have wrestled repeatedly with the question of whether to include fellow human beings in the democratic process, or to continue to exclude them.  Time after time, something in us has impelled us to choose inclusion:  to include non-property owners, former slaves, women, persons of all ethnic backgrounds.  And our instincts have never proven wrong.

Today 48 states have some form of automatic restoration of voting rights to former felons:  the story of democarcy grows.

This is not a fight between liberals and conservatives:  it touches the very heart of what it means to be a human being.  Nobody will lose if HB70 becomes law.  Kentucky will win—everyone will win.

And Damon Thayer will win.  For if he joins us now, Mr. Thayer will be remembered, not as a politician who failed to hold on to some obscure patch of partisan turf that only a few Frankfort "insidersâ€ value, but as a man who joined the march of democracy, who propelled it forward at a critical juncture.

The story of the extension of the democratic process encompasses our noblest aspirations and our most celebrated political and social movements—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, civil rights—movements in which today we all take pride, that we teach to our children.  Indeed it is the Great Story we share as Americans, across lines of race, class, national origin and political persuasion.  It is our most distinctive contribution to humanity.  If Mr. Thayer joins us now, he will be able to tell his children and grandchildren about the part he played in writing that Story.

Homer White is Professor of Mathematics at Georgetown College and a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a statewide grassroots social justice group.  The Scott County Chapter meets at the Scott County Public Library at 7 PM on the first Thursday of every month.  All are invited.

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