Voting rights action by Gov. Beshear a huge win for a healthy democracy

Posted by: KFTC staff on November 24, 2015

Kentuckians throughout the state are elated that Gov. Steve Beshear has taken steps to restore the voting rights for tens of thousands of state residents.

“Pretty awesome,” is how KFTC member Mantell Stevens reacted to the news. “To be able to vote means a lot to me. I always encourage people to vote, but now I can lead by example. I tell my nieces and nephews the importance of voting, but I could never vote myself.

“To be able to actually go and vote and to show them the importance of participating in democracy will mean so much to me,” added Stevens, who lost his right to vote in 2000 after spending 30 days in jail and three years on probation for a drug possession charge.

At a Tuesday press conference before a room packed with voting rights supporters, Beshear outlined a simplified process for Stevens and more than 100,000 other Kentuckians to immediately apply for and receive their voting rights back.

“The right to vote and the right to hold office are fundamental foundations of our democracy. Yet in Kentucky it is estimated that we deny those rights to an estimated 180,000 adults,” Beshear said. “Why? Simply because at some point in their lives they have been in trouble with the law. We ignore the fact that they have paid for their crimes and served out their sentences.

“This disenfranchisement makes no sense. It makes no sense because it dilutes the energy of democracy, which functions only if all classes and categories of people have a voice, not just a privileged powerful few … It makes no sense because it violates the principles of fairness.

Beshear said he was signing an executive order instituting a new policy that automatically restores voting rights for felons provided they meet three criteria. Those criteria are they the individual has fulfilled their sentence, has no pending criminal charges and was not convicted of a violent, sexual bribery or treason offense.

Once the Department of Corrections makes the determination that the former felon meets those criteria they will receive a certificate of restoration of civil rights and may register to vote or run for public office

This is a huge victory for many others like Tayna Fogle who have organized and worked for a decade for voting rights restoration for former felons. Fogle, Stevens and other KFTC members and allies met with the governor in the summer and asked him to take executive action to restore voting rights to former felons.

"The governor's announcement today is the result of a decade of work by organizations and political leaders who came together in unity. It took a lot of labor, education, outreach, fundraising and grassroots efforts by Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and other groups,” said Fogle. "This is about making sure that everyone in our communities has a say in the decisions affecting their lives. It's about making sure that my neighbors have a say in who is on our school board, who is serving in local offices that affect our community."

Studies by the Kentucky League of Women Voters and the Sentencing Project estimate that there are 180,000 Kentuckians who have completed their felony sentences and are not able to vote. That’s about one in 17 Kentuckians of voting age and one in four African Americans – one of the highest rates in the nation.

Beshear’s order will affect an estimated 140,000 former felons, plus an additional 30,000 who have not yet completed their sentences, according to Brennan Center estimates.

Former felons not covered under Beshear’s order may still apply for an individual pardon.

Kentucky is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchise people convicted of a felony. Up to now, only those who received an individual pardon from the governor had their rights restored.

"Restoration of my voting rights was key to feeling like I was a part of society again,” added Jason Smith of Elizabethtown, one of a small number of Kentuckians who have received one of those gubernatorial pardons. “I felt like I was sentenced to a civil purgatory, with a scarlet letter around my neck. Being able to get my voting rights back allowed me to get jobs I couldn't before, and even allowed me to become a chaperone at my child's field trip to Frankfort."

"Getting your voting rights back is so important,” said Teddi Smith Robillard of Lexington. “As long as you are denied voting rights, you are still serving your sentence. And that's not right."

Proponents of a healthy democracy have, for nearly 10 years, pushed legislation that would automatically restore voting rights. Since 2007, each year those bills have been approved by the Kentucky House by large bipartisan margins only to be killed by Senate leaders. That prompted the request to Beshear to take executive action.

“Today is a wonderful day. This is so badly needed,” said former state Rep. Jesse Crenshaw who for years was the chief proponent of the legislation to change the state constitution to make voting rights restoration automatic. “What we have today is democracy at its best.”

KFTC members say they will continue to push for legislation that will allow the action Beshear took to become a permanent part of Kentucky’s constitution.

Added Stevens, “Sometimes it takes a lifetime to see change, but to see something like this manifest in my lifetime is amazing. This action and the work we did to get here is a part of Kentucky history. We are a part of Kentucky history. And, that is pretty awesome.”

Added Fogle, "We have been at this a long time. Today's announcement shows that change is possible if we hang in there, together, and never give up."

Officials said the application for civil rights restoration will be available on the Department of Corrections website by Tuesday afternoon.

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Give today and build twice the power

Posted by: KFTC Executive Committee on November 9, 2015

We joined KFTC to work with others to build power and make change. Since then, we’ve been on a journey together, with you and thousands of other Kentuckians.

Changes in Madison County on Election Day

Posted by: KFTC Staff on November 6, 2015

Voters in Madison County may have noticed something a little different at the polls this Election Day. 


How did these signs come to be? The process started just this past September in Berea, a small community in Madison County, when the city held a special election. While there was good voter turn out, not all went smoothly. There were many reports of confusion at the polls and voters being turned away for not possessing a state issued ID.  The members of the Madison County chapter of KFTC decided this could not happen again.

Thoughts on the election from KFTC's chair

Posted by: Dana Beasley Brown on November 4, 2015

Dear friends,

Like many of you, I'm deeply concerned about the election outcomes. All night, I kept thinking about what we do and where we go from here. In those moments, I was grateful to be part of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. We are exactly what we need.

I woke up this morning and heard about so many of you inviting your loved ones to join KFTC, and the responses that you've had. Truly, we are our best hope for change. We have to dig in today, right now, to build the people power we'll need to protect our commonwealth, and to build a brighter future.

I want to share one of the posts that inspired me this morning, from Tanya Torp, KFTC's Vice-Chair. So far, ten Kentuckians have joined KFTC from  reading Tanya's post. Other Kentuckians have joined since the election, too, maybe after hearing from some of you. 

Friends, now is the time for us to get to work. Reach out to your friends. Invite them to join. Let's organize. 


Dana Beasley Brown
KFTC Chairperson

Become a PowerBuilder for KFTC this Fall

Posted by: KFTC staff on October 26, 2015

Vice Presidential Debate, Centre College 2012

KFTC is gearing up for an exciting fall campaign to grow our membership, raise funds and build power to do important work across Kentucky in 2016.

Want to help? Become a PowerBuilder.

What does it mean to be a PowerBuilder? You host a personal online page to recruit new members and raise funds for KFTC. It’s an opportunity to engage your family and friends in this work that’s important to you.

PowerBuilders have a big impact. In 2014, our PowerBuilders together raised $18,000 and recruited 153 new members to KFTC! Their success supported on-the-ground work in communities across Kentucky this year – campaigns for a fair wage, affordable housing, renters’ rights, Appalachian transition, and more.

It’s easy. It takes just a few steps to build your page. You can tell your KFTC story and include photos and video.

Questions? Need help getting started? Contact KFTC’s Development Team: Amy Hogg (amy@kftc.org) or E’Beth Adami (ebeth@kftc.org).

An Open Letter To The Lexington City Council From The Central Kentucky Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Posted by: Staff on October 23, 2015

We are the Central Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, and we believe that all Lexington’s workers deserve a wage that can sustain themselves and their families.

Empower Kentucky will build a state energy plan “that works for everybody”

Posted by: KFTC staff on October 20, 2015

Empower Kentucky, an ambitious project to re-shape Kentucky’s energy future based on a vision “that works for everybody” was announced today by KFTC members.

“Over the next year KFTC will invite thousands of people from all walks of life to share their vision and ideas for transforming Kentucky’s energy system,” said Sean Hardy of Louisville. “Then, together, we will write our own energy plan, one that works for everybody, all of us.

Federal grants support economic transition efforts for eastern Kentucky

Posted by: KFTC staff on October 15, 2015

KFTC members are applauding the Obama administration’s commitment to a just economic transition for eastern Kentucky through the investments in people and communities reflected in several

Recap of 2nd Annual Smoketown GetDown

Posted by: Shavaun Evans on October 14, 2015

Last month the Jefferson County Chapter hosted the 2nd annual Smoketown GetDown for Democracy block party: the party hasn’t stopped since!  The event was a celebration of the history of the Smoket

Rowan chapter offers festival- goers healthy food options

Posted by: Annie Adams on October 11, 2015

The Rowan County KFTC Chapter held its second fundraiser of the year at the Cave Run Storytelling Festival, September 25 and 26.  The chapter was one of many food vendors at the popular festival, vendors that included professional carnival merchants as well as volunteers from other nonprofits, such as the Boy Scouts of America. 

Members ask for strong protections for streams affected by mining

Posted by: KFTC staff on September 24, 2015

Members of KFTC, the Sierra Club, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Kentucky Conservation Committee, Appalachian Voices, Kentucky Resources Council and others had a strong presence at a public hearing September 3 to advocate for the strongest possible protections for water in communities where coal is mined and downstream.


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