LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Andy Beshear is restoring voting rights to more than 140,000 ex-felons.
The governor signed the executive order Thursday afternoon with enthusiastic support from the crowd, including the NAACP.
Those eligible for restoration include any nonviolent offenders convicted in Kentucky who have completed their complete sentence, including probation and restitution.
The executive order, however, does not restore voting rights to all felons.
"Let me be clear: The order that I am going to sign today is for Kentuckians who have committed non-violent offenses," Beshear said.
Violent offenders, such as those convicted of homicide, rape, sexual abuse, etc., will not have their voting rights restored. Beshear said he has had to grieve with family members faced with homicide, rape and sexual abuse, and he believes felonies in cases like that are "too heinous" to be included in the executive order.
Federally convicted felons will not have their voting rights restored either.
Beshear said he believes in redemption and in second chances. He said he restored voting rights to Kentuckians because many who made mistakes were in their youth.
He said some made those mistakes because of addiction.
Since he restored the voting rights through an executive order, it did not need approval by the General Assembly. However, some legislators are raising concern with the executive order.
House Speaker David Osborne released this statement:
“We are now reviewing the specific details of this executive order. Initially, we have concerns about the use of an executive order to effectively amend our state's constitution. Regardless of which side you are on - and it is important to note that a version of this has already passed the House with support from members of both parties - ultimately only the Kentucky voter has the authority to amend our constitution.”
The Kentucky House Democrats reacted to the executive order paying tribute to former representatives Darryl Owens and Jesse Crenshaw for beginning the fight for voter restoration.
"We now hope we can act as a legislature to restore voting rights permanently to those who have paid their debt to society and deserve to be heard at the voting booth," House Democratic Caucus Chair Derrick Graham and Caucus Whip Joni Jenkins said in a statement.
Beshear said the next process would be notifying all who received restoration and sending verification to election officials. He mentioned there's still work to be done but reminded voters it will get done before May.
"That's going to take a little bit of time," he said. "We ask people to bare with us. We're going to get it done as quickly as we can and long before the next election."
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