Central Kentucky KFTC members meet with Senator Alice Forgy Kerr on Restoration of Voting Rights

On August 1, Central Kentucky KFTC members sat down with state Senator Alice Forgy Kerr to talk about the importance of restoring voting rights to former felons. Members were happy to have her full support.

Central Kentucky members Sarah Thomas, Teddi Robillard Smith, Mantell Stevens, and Pastor Anthony Everett shared their passion for the issue and created a space that allowed for a supportive conversation about the importance of democracy and the power of having a second chance.

“Voting rights for returning citizens in Kentucky and across the nation is an issue of justice. A citizen who has served time for their criminal action under the law, once the time has been served irregardless of any outstanding debts owed, should be restored to full citizenship which means the right and responsibility to vote. So many marginalized people in Kentucky, especially ethnic people, have become disenfranchised from not being able to vote. This lack of empowerment negatively affects poor communities, rural and urban” Pastor Everett said.

Sen. Kerr expressed her complete support to restoring the right to vote to those who have served their debt to society and offered to support the issue in any way she could.

She discussed her faith and her belief in forgiveness. “That’s where I am with my faith. As a Christian, I believe in a God of forgiveness," Kerr said. “It’s almost like thievery to say you’ve paid your debt and we still take this away from you.”

Teddi Robillard Smith and Mantell Stevens spoke with Sen. Kerr on the issue from a personal perspective.

Stevens lost his right to vote 13 years ago and has realized the importance of voting, especially as he tries to talk to his nieces and nephews going to the polls.

“I want to set a good example for them,” said Stevens. “It’s hard to tell them the importance of voting when I can’t vote myself.”

Teddi Robillard Smith shared her struggles of overcoming alcohol addiction, which was a factor in her losing her voting rights years ago.

After years of working to have her voting rights restored, Smith finally voted again two years ago. That day she called everyone she knew to tell them the good news. “Having been fortunate enough to have met with mayors, senators and representatives both state and federal in California and Kentucky, interned and worked for a U.S. Congressman, I found Senator Kerr most gracious, friendly, and constructive. Senator Kerr was open and sincere; I found this very refreshing. Thank you, Senator Kerr.”

This meeting with Sen. Kerr was the first in a series of meetings with senators across the state this fall to discuss the importance of restoring voting rights in preparation for the General Assembly in 2014.

KFTC members have lobbied for HB 70 for almost a decade. HB 70 would allow a vote on changing the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to former felons who have served their debt to society. Historically the bill has sailed through the House but has stalled in the Senate committee and not been called for a vote.

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