Shelby members encourage Sen. Hornback to support voting rights

State Senator Paul Hornback favors restoring voting rights to former felons who have served their time, but wants to make them wait two to five years after completing their sentences before being able to vote.

Hornback met with members of Shelby KFTC chapter and the Shelby County Area NAACP to discuss getting his support for House Bill 70, which would allow voters to decide whether to make automatic the restoration of voting rights to former felons upon completion of their sentences, without a waiting period.

"House Bill 70 cannot pass the Senate," Hornback said flatly. He said he is working with Senator Gerald Neal on a compromise bill.

Hornback received pushback from several members of the audience and from guest speaker Michael Hiser.

Michael HiserHiser has been out of prison for six years and has paid $15,000 dollars in back taxes in that time. Since his release, he graduated with high honors from Jefferson Community and Technical College with an Associate’s degree in human services. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Campbellsville University, is a licensed minister, and is currently working on his master’s degree as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is an adjunct instructor for Jefferson Community Technical College and will be teaching almost 100 students this semester while being the volunteer chaplain at two community custody corrections institutions for the past six years. He was released from parole early for good behavior and he still does not have the right to vote. But does have the right to be taxed.

Hiser emphasized that last point repeatedly to Hornback, who repeatedly responded by insisting that former felons must serve more time to prove they are worthy of voting rights.

Hiser responded with the fact that by the time former felons complete their parole, they have already spent years after release from prison proving themselves every day.

KFTC and NAACP members expressed their support for Hiser's position and encouraged Hornback to revise his stand. Hornback did say he would consider a waiting period of two years rather than five, but would not accept a bill without a waiting period.

"I can pay Senator Hornback's salary, but I can't vote for him," Hiser said. "I'd like to be a full-fledged member of society with all the rights that go with the responsibilities.

"Elected officials today are not representing all of the citizens [because so many can't vote]. If we don't treat ex-felons like citizens, we will have to deal with them otherwise."

Not allowing former felons to vote is "an attack on the community," Hiser said. "People who can't vote aren't part of the community." He said he may have to move to another state that allows him as an former felon to vote.

"I don't think I should have to pay my taxes as a citizen if I don't have the rights of a citizen."

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