Jason Smith

gIMG_9196A couple of weeks ago, Jason Smith, 32, from Elizabethtown succeeded in regaining the right to vote and plans on voting for the first time in the election this November. 

But it wasn't an easy path getting there, he told us. 

"My father was an alcoholic and I had a lot of problems at home growing up. I fled from that at a young age and managed to get my way through high school on my own, but I didn't always make the best decisions back then."

"When I was 18, I got caught with ½ ounce of Marijuana and an improperly stowed handgun in my car, and that was enough to put me in jail with a felony.  I got put in with some pretty hardened criminals and gang members, which didn't exactly help me in turning my life around.  To be honest, I looked to some of the older guys as mentors then and they weren't very good role models.  I’m not blaming anybody for my own choices, but it was a bad path to get on."

250331_198871346824063_100001035979535_525841_5401809_n"After I became a parent, though, I decided that I really need to turn my life around.  It brought everything into focus for me.  But my choices are really limited by my past."

"I went to college and did really well in school, though, learning to be a chemical dependency abuse counselor.  I tell people that I got a PHD in the street and then sharpened that to a point with a college education.  In all of that, I've learned a lot that I can use to really help people." 

"After I realized I could apply to get my voting rights back through a partial pardon from the Governor, I knew I had to try.  Because being silent in this Democracy and having my kids be silenced too by extension didn't seem right." 

"I applied to get my rights back and then followed up by phone every couple of days, but never heard back." 

"Finally, I visited the court in person and asked about my case.  They claimed that I had a failure to appear to court offense on my record, but I knew that wasn't right.  When I contested it, they told me that I'd probably have to get a lawyer."

Jason pushed back and stubbornly waited in the office until he could convince someone to take the time to look into it more deeply.  Eventually, they found that the records of the Jason Smith they had on file belonged to a man with a different birthday, so Jason's application had stopped because of something another Jason Smith did. 

"Admittedly, it's a pretty common name.," Jason says, laughing.  Still, he notes that most people wouldn't have been persistent enough to push their way through a snag like that. 

gIMG_9194"I'm pretty bull-headed, really," Jason said.  “I have a great education and I was willing to really follow-up on my application, but there’s people who don’t have my bullheadedness or luck and I'm afraid they’re not getting their rights back."

And indeed, over 120,000 Kentuckians haven't been able to navigate the process that Jason went through, but he's dedicated to helping them too. 

"After I got my right to vote back, I posted the certificate on Facebook and a few other people approached me to see if I could help them get their rights back.  I'm helping a few through the process right now."

He also spent some time looking for organizations that work on Voting Rights and discovered KFTC by finding a news story about our Voting Rights Rally in Frankfort earlier this year and managed to blow up one of the images big enough that he could make out the letters "KFTC."

“I have a loud enough voice on my own to get my rights back," said Jason.  "A lot of people don’t, but KFTC helps other people to have a loud voice and I want to be a part of that.  I've never done anything small im my life and I'm looking forward to doing something big with this."  

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