It's time – it's long past time – to Let Us Vote!

KFTC members and allies are planning a series of public actions with the message of “Let Us Vote” during the upcoming legislative session. These efforts are aimed at winning passage of a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to nearly a quarter million Kentuckians. As U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis has said, "The right to vote is precious, almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy." 

Yet Kentucky is one of just a small handful of states that permanently takes away the right to vote from anyone convicted of a felony, unless they receive a pardon from the governor. In a majority of states, voting rights are automatically restored when people are released from prison or off parole. Kentucky’s lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions is embedded in outdated language in our state constitution.

As a result, the population of voting age citizens who cannot vote in Kentucky is larger than Bowling Green, our third largest city. Shamefully, our state has the second highest rate of African-American disenfranchisement in the country.   

In order to change the state constitution, sixty percent of the members in both chambers of the Kentucky legislature must vote for proposed legislation. Then the issue needs to go before Kentucky voters for approval. In other words, until the legislature acts, all Kentuckians are being denied the right to vote on this important issue.

This year there are four similar pieces of legislation proposed in the Kentucky General Assembly by prominent Democratic and Republican lawmakers: House Bill 70 and Senate Bill 70 and House Bill 26 and Senate Bill 26. Similar legislation has already passed the House 9 times in the last 8 years, always with wide bipartisan support. However Senate leaders have consistently acted to block the measure. (Last year the Senate passed the bill, but only after loading it up with restrictions that made it meaningless and unacceptable to the House.)

Please join us in the weeks and months ahead to make your voice heard on this important issue!

 1.    Attend prayer vigils at the Capitol, each Tuesday in February from 12 to 1 p.m. Pastor Anthony Everett of Wesley United Methodist Church will lead a weekly prayer vigil in front of Senate leaders’ offices on the second floor of the Capitol Annex on Tuesdays from 12 to 1 p.m. during the month of February. People of all faiths and traditions are welcome. We will reflect together on the dignity of every person, sing songs of redemption and liberation, and be visible and vocal witnesses to injustice.

 2.    Participate in a Voting Rights Lobby day and Rally, Thursday, February 26. Join us in Frankfort and bring people with you! When you arrive to lobby (between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. is best), please come to room 113 of the Capitol Annex for a brief training. The rally will take place in the Capitol Rotunda from 1-2 p.m.

3.    Call, write and visit your legislators to ask them to support restoration of voting rights. You can call the toll-free message line (800-372-7181) and ask to leave a message for your state representative and senator. If you don’t know their names, the people taking messages can look up that information. Our basic message is: “Please support HB 70 and restoration of voting rights in Kentucky. It is time to Let Us Vote.” You can also email any legislator through their webpages, which can be found at www.lrc.ky.gov.  And you can lobby with KFTC in Frankfort on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays between February 3 and March 6. Please communicate with Lisa Abbot at 859-200-5159 or lisa@kftc.org to let us know what day(s) you will join us.

4.    Have conversations and use social media to spread the word! Once this bill makes it through the legislature, it will need support from a majority of voters. That’s why it is so important for us to have conversations with our co-workers, family, friends and neighbors. Face-to-face conversations are the most meaningful way to engage others, but there is also a role for social media. When you communicate about this issue online, please use the hashtag #LetUsVote.

5.    Write letters to the editor. The next few weeks are an important time to write letters to the editor expressing your support for restoring voting rights, and urging Senate leaders to pass HB 70. You can find a great 15-minute video produced by KFTC about writing effective letters to the editor at http://vimeo.com/106961983.

6.    Stay tuned for more information about actions in Frankfort during the final full week of the legislative session, March 2-6, 2015. KFTC members are considering a range of possible actions to urge state senators to do the right thing and pass HB 70. Please keep one or more of those days open so you can participate.

 

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