Sen. Rand Paul testifies about bill that would restore felons' right to vote
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky bill that would restore the right of felons to vote is moving forward, but not without a major snag. A Senate committee has made a proposal that some lawmakers call oppressive.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed House Bill 70, but with the provision that felons would have to wait five years before they'd be allowed to vote. That idea isn't sitting well with some.
"I'm able to pay taxes, I'm not able on to vote," said Mike Hiser, a convicted felon. "So part of democracy -- part of me being part of the solution to our community's problems -- means I need to vote."
And there were some big names who appeared to testify, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
"I think, particularly for nonviolent crimes, we should try to reincorporate people back into society," Sen. Paul said.
The version of HB 70 passed by the full Kentucky House would restore the right to vote for non-violent felons once their sentence is served and parole complete.
But the version that passed the Senate committee would tack on another five years before felons would be eligible to cast a ballot. It also would ban people with multiple felony convictions from being eligible to vote again.
"But the five-year waiting period accomplishes is a further extension of the sentence," said Louisville NAACP president Raul Cunningham.
That would include an estimated 100,000 people of the 180,000 this proposed law could affect in Kentucky.
"This suggestion here regarding the add on is ludicrous," said Ky. Sen. Gerald Neal. "It makes no sense."
There is more hashing out to be done for sure, but the fact this bill has moved forward even as far as it has is progress.
"We're going to tell you that House Bill 70, unamended, is not going to get called up for a vote in the Kentucky State Senate," said Ky. Sen. Damon Thayer.
"To getting a hearing, and getting a vote today, I think it's a huge step forward," said Sen. Paul.
This version now goes on to the full Senate for a vote, but this is a version that a lot of members of the House have a lot of issues with. And even if it does pass both houses, it still has to go on to the November ballot because this is a proposed constitutional amendment.
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