Weekly Prayer Vigil to Support Voting Rights | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Friday, January 30, 2015
Press Contact: 
Rev. Anthony Everett
Pastor, Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington

Weekly Prayer Vigil to Support Voting Rights

      The first of what will be a weekly vigil in support of restoring voting rights for nearly a quarter of a million Kentuckians will take place on Tuesday at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort.

      The prayerful presence outside the offices of state senators will be to remind them of the injustice done to former felons who in Kentucky permanently lose their right to vote unless they receive a pardon from the governor. That means more than 243,000 Kentuckians are barred from participating in our elections. Kentucky has the second highest rate of African-American disenfranchisement in the country.   

      “People of faith all believe that everybody deserves another chance. Placing restrictions on the voting rights of those who have done their time is not the witness of people of faith from a loving and merciful God,” said Rev. D. Anthony Everett, pastor, of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Lexington. “I invite people of all faiths to join Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and me for peaceful prayer vigils every Tuesday at noon to end lifetime voting disenfranchisement in Kentucky for returning citizens with felony convictions.”

      Nine times in the past eight legislative sessions, the Kentucky House voted with overwhelming bipartisan support to pass House Bill 70 (the bill is assigned the same number every year) only to have the bill left to die or gutted by Senate leaders. This year there are four similar bills (HB 70, SB 70, HB 26 and SB 26) reflecting Democratic and Republican sponsors, but Senate leaders have not offered support.

      “HB 70 restores the full humanity of returning citizens by recognizing that former felons deserve their immediate right to vote without waiting periods and other encumbrances,” said Pastor Everett.

      “Our objective this year is to pray for Kentucky legislators’ discernment to do what is morally right and support House Bill 70 without changes and pass it through both the House and Senate so that Governor Beshear can sign it into law,” he added.

      The vigil will take place every Tuesday while the General Assembly is in session on the second floor of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort, in the small lobby area outside senators’ office. It will start at noon and last about an hour. People of all faiths and traditions are welcome.

      Also on Tuesday, voting rights supporters will deliver buttons to House members with a number 1 through 9, representing how many times they have voted Yes for voting rights restoration.


Yet Kentucky is one of just a small number 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.

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 will go before Kentucky voters for approval in November 2016.

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. The House rejected these changes and Senate leaders blocked reconsideration and a move to a conference committee.



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