Secretary of State meets citizens in Madison County

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes held her final town meeting last night in Madison County, and KFTC members were there to talk about expanding voting rights and ways to increase voting.

“This is the process and the time for you to offer your thoughts,” Grimes told the crowd of about 50 people, which included state and local elected officials, county clerks, interested citizens from surrounding counties, and Madison County KFTC members.

At the five town meetings across Kentucky during the last few months, Grimes has discussed ways to increase voter participation and help citizens realize the power of their voices in the democratic process. Topics have included restoration of voting rights for former felons, online voter registration, same-day registration, early voting without an excuse, and wait times on election day.

Grimes recognized KFTC, the League of Women Voters and others in the room, and she initiated a conversation about House Bill 70, legislation that would allow Kentuckians to vote on the issue of restoring voting rights to former felons once they’ve served their time.

When Grimes asked the crowd whether they wanted the chance to vote on the issue, she received a loud “Yes!” from the room. She asked the crowd to answer again, more loudly, so the reporters in the room could hear. “You gotta send a message, and that’s what these forums are about,” she said.

Member Megan Naseman of Berea told Grimes about doing get-out-the-vote work and encountering a man who had lost his right to vote because of a felony conviction.

“There’s a lot of research that shows that recidivism, which is committing another crime, actually decreases when folks are given their right to vote back,” Naseman said.

Member Meta Mendel-Reyes, who teaches at Berea College, described how she has worked with students to register voters. “My students are also surprised to find out that it is hard for many people in Kentucky to register to vote.”

Mendel-Reyes expressed her support for expanding options for voter registration, including registering online. Others in the room, including county clerks, also supported streamlining registration and voting procedures through online registration and early voting without an excuse.

Grimes asked participants to describe in one word why voting is important to them. Answers included voice, power, choice, opportunity, freedom, change, responsibility, care, honor, citizenship, right, duty, patriotism, participate, future and equality.

Updated on July 15, 2013

Two news pieces were published after this Secretary of State meeting regarding voting and voting rights. One piece titled "Eye On Elections" covers the meeting and quotes Mendel-Reyes about the need to make voting more accesible. Another article titled "VA Restores Voting Rights for Ex-Felons; KY Still Waiting" quotes Naseman about the importance of restoring voting rights to former felons.

  

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