A bill that would restore voting rights for non-violent felons has passed a Kentucky House committee.
The measure is Rep. Jesse Crenshaw's latest attempt to put approximately 130,000 felons back on the voting rolls. Similar efforts have repeatedly stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. But Crenshaw says he hopes that his bill will fare better this year due to support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.
“I hope that he would, in fact, speak with those in the Senate and urge them to call it for a vote, in committee and on the floor,” Crenshaw said. “I hope that he would do that.”
A spokesman for Sen. Paul says he plans to urge Republicans in the Kentucky Senate to pass the legislation, and will testify before an upcoming Senate committee on the issue.
The bill has support from House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover.
“Some people have argued it may be a full voting rights act for members of a party opposite of my party. I don’t view it that way," Hoover said. "I view it as being fair, and as a matter of fairness. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I support this bill.”
While some debate the political ramifications of bringing about 130,000 new voters into the fold, others argue it's a simple matter or morality. Father Pat Delahanty is with the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
“When somebody’s finished their sentences completely, they should be allowed to come back into a society in which they can fully participate," Delahanty said. "And if they’re Catholic or whatever, they can fulfill their moral obligations in citizenship by actually voting.”
Currently, felons must seek a restoration of Civil Rights from the governor to regain the right to vote. Beshear has granted nearly 8,000 restorations since taking office.
If passed, Crenshaw’s legislation would put the issue to voters on the November ballot.