Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear Restores Voting Rights Of Felons

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear restored the voting right of felons in the state. The outgoing Democratic governor signed an executive order to give most non-violent felons the ability to once again cast a vote for president and other races and issues on the ballot.

The executive order signed by Governor Steve Beshear will affect approximately 180,000 Kentucky felons, MSN reports.

After Kentucky felons finish their sentences, parole or probation requirements, and have completed any court-ordered restitution, their voting rights will automatically be restored. Before Governor Beshear’s executive order, felons had to apply to his office to request voting restoration. Now, the state department of corrections will determine which ex-cons are eligible for the voting rights reestablishment.

“The old system is unfair. It’s counterproductive. We need to be smarter in our criminal justice system. Research shows that ex-felons who vote are less likely to commit new crime and return to prison. That’s because if you vote, you tend to be more engaged in society,” Steve Beshear said.

Before the outgoing governor signed the executive order, Kentucky was one of four states that required its governor to approve the restoration of voting right for felons. The topic had been debated heavily in the Democrat-controlled Kentucky House of Representatives. A voting rights restoration bill was passed 10 times in the last nine years but died once it hit the floor in a Republican-controlled state senate.

GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rand Paul had urged for the passage of a bill to give voting rights back to non-violent felons. Many of the Republicans who supported the restoration rights plan did not agree with the approach taken to change the law by Beshear.

“My issue with today’s action is not about the restoration of those rights, but the fact once again this governor has chosen to usurp the authority of the Kentucky General Assembly through executive order,” Kentucky State House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover stated in a press release.

State Senator Hoover also said that the legality of the order is in question and an amendment to the state constitution is required for such action. Governor Beshear disagrees and reportedly feels that the Kentucky constitution gives him the authority to restore voting rights to non-violent felons.

Steve Beshear served two terms as governor, and state law prevents an individual from serving three straight terms in the office. Republican Matt Bevin won the post and will be sworn in next month.

“During his time in office, Gov. Beshear has brought Kentucky successfully through a historic recession by making the Commonwealth a leader in job creation. Since implementing Incentives for a New Kentucky (INK) legislation in July 2009, Gov. Beshear has announced more than $8.8 billion in new economic development investment and more than 52,000 new and retained jobs in the Commonwealth,” according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky official website.

Steve Beshear was a practicing attorney before becoming a politician. He served as a state representative in the Kentucky General Assembly, as a lieutenant governor, and as the state attorney general before becoming governor. Beshear is from Dawson Springs in the western region of the state. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve and earned his law degree from the University of Kentucky. In 1969, he married his wife, Jane. The couple has two sons and three grandchildren together.

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[Photo by Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo]