Lexington-Fayette urban county government comes out in support of restoring voting rights for former felons
As folks already know, HB 70, Representative Jesse Crenshaw's bill that would restore voting rights to most former felons who've served their time, has passed the Kentucky House seven years in a row, each year with broad bipartisan support. Most recently the vote was 75 to 25. Unfortunately when it's arrived in the Senate it hasn't received a hearing or vote. KFTC members and allies are working diligently to educate the Kentucky Senate about HB 70 and the positive effect it would have on communities across the commonwealth. And chapters have begun to develop strategies for involving their local governments.
Starting approximately a year ago, the central Kentucky chapter began lobbying their city council to pass a resolution in support of voting rights for former felons.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council is made up of 12 members who represent city districts, including three at-large council members of which one is the vice mayor. One of the chapter's first meetings was with Vice Mayor Linda Gorton who said that if KFTC members were serious about passing a resolution through the council then they should make a good faith effory to meet with every council member (and the mayor) to educate them about the issue.
So that's what chapter members did, and over the last year they met with nearly every member of the council, including Mayor Jim Gray and his aides to explain how the LFUCG could help towards building a more vibrant and healthy democracy. The lobby meetings were a great experience for chapter members because not only did it give them practice talking about the campaign but it helped them get to know how their city government worked and who the council members were. Their meeting with council member Ford went incredibly well, he was very supportive, so they asked him immediately if he'd sponsor the resolution, to which he agreed.
Their lobbying efforts paid off when last Thursday the city council voted unanimously to pass a resolution stating that not only do they believe that people who’ve served their time deserve the right to vote again, but also that the General Assembly should give the citizens of the commonwealth the chance to vote on the issue.
KFTC members and allies packed the council chambers and folks gave over an hour of testimony in support of the resolution.
KFTC member and former felon Tayna Fogle talked about her past as both a UK basketbal player and a person who fell into drugs. "I served a ten year prison sentence, I did my time. I made a mistake but I am not a mistake."
KFTC member Tedi Smith-Robillard, who received a pardon from the governor, shared with the council her commitment to justice. “I am 73 years old and until the day I die I will work for justice and for people to have the right to vote."
The resolution while symbolic (the city Lexington city council can’t change Kentucky’s constitution or give people their voting rights back), does send a powerful message to the General Assembly.
"We are counting on you to do the right thing. - Rev. Joseph Owens at the Lexington city council meeting.
Click here for a copy of the council meeting docket which contains the language of the resolution (number 41)