Louisville Metro Council unanimously passes resolution supporting Voting Rights Restoration in Kentucky

We Did It!!!

Louisville Metro Council once again made history last month by passing the Resolution supporting the Restoration of Voting Rights to Former Felons in Kentucky with a unanimous vote of 19-0!

Going into the July 24 Metro Council hearing, the Resolution had 11 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Once the Resolution was brought to the floor for discussion, five more Metro Council members (bi-partisan, again!) signed on as co-sponsors.  With no opposition on Metro Council, or from the chambers, the Resolution passed, with several Metro Council members going on record about why voting rights matter, and why this resolution is so important.

But this didn’t begin in July. In February 2013, Councilman Chris Ford led the Lexington Urban County Council to pass a similar Resolution by unanimous vote. Our dear partners,Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, along with other key allies played an instrumental role in passing the Resolution.

A few months ago, while visiting Councilman Ford, our conversation turned to voting rights in Kentucky. Councilman Ford offered his assistance in moving a resolution in Louisville that would support the restoration of voting rights in Kentucky. Upon returning to Louisville, I revisited a conversation that Councilwoman Attica Scott (the lead sponsor on Louisville’s resolution), the Jefferson County Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, and I had been having about this issue. Councilwoman Scott began working on the draft of the Resolution, talking to her colleagues at Louisville Metro Council, and thinking through strategy.

Once the Resolution was filed and assigned to the Committee on Health, Education, and Housing, we prepared for a potential battle, as the issue of voting rights restoration has proven to be on the State level.  Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, Committee Chair, graciously agreed to allow Councilman Ford to address the committee about Lexington’s resolution, their process and why this is so important for local jurisdictions in Kentucky. I chimed in against a proposed amendment to the Resolution that would alter the title to only support voting rights restoration for non-violent offenders.

After the Resolution passed out of committee unanimously, Councilwoman Scott and I penned an Op-Ed in The Courier-Journal, which ran a few days before the Metro Council hearing.  A quote from Councilwoman Scott that I shared during my address to Louisville Metro Council still resonates with me:

“Most people of goodwill know that voting is a fundamental right. As a compassionate city, we should support the restoration of that right just as we support restorative justice in other areas of our society. And like restorative justice, restoration of voting rights reintegrates people who have served their time back into our community, reduces recidivism, and helps to make people whole after they have made a mistake and been judged for that mistake.”

We were grateful to David Horvath & the Sowers of Justice Network for addressing Metro Council in support of our resolution from a faith perspective. We also had the honor of support from the Louisville League of Women Voters on this issue, as they shared updated statistics on voting rights and voter disenfranchisement.

Finally, the resolution made it to the council floor. The Council chambers fell silent as the resolution was read. And then Victory began to show: one by one, five more councilmembers signed on as co-sponsors. Folks in the chambers, along with myself, could barely contain our excitement as we were waiting for voting to open.

We erupted into a clapping frenzy as the vote was closed with a 19-0 unanimous tally. Another victory for Kentucky Jobs with Justice. Another Victory for Voting Rights. Another Victory for Democracy & Social Justice.

It is with heartfelt gratitude that I say Thank You to everyone who made phone calls, sent emails, talked to their neighbors & friends, and showed up for tonight’s Metro Council hearing, to Councilman Ford, to Councilwoman Scott, & to all of Louisville Metro Council. Without you, this Resolution would not be victorious. Thank you.

 Thank you for your support,
 
Bonifacio Aleman
Executive Director
 
 
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