Voting seems like a fundament right, but federal and Kentucky law consider it a privilege. Unfortunately, Kentucky has one of the harshest felon disenfranchisement laws in the country. Once convicted, a Kentucky felon may never vote again, subject to two limited exceptions. Currently, only the governor has the power to pardon Kentucky felons. Beginning on July 15, 2016, certain Class D felons will be eligible to have their records expunged under House Bill 40.
How can I have my right to vote restored?
The federal government delegates power to the states to determine if they will deny felons the right to vote. Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that voting is a privilege of citizenship unless you participate in crime. The Fourteenth Amendment was created to grant citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” but it also produced a way for states to penalize certain felons beyond their sentences. Section 145 of the Kentucky Constitution creates Kentuckians’ right to vote, but it does not provide this right to convicted felons. Until H.B. 40 goes into effect, the only way to have your right to vote restored is to be pardoned by the Governor of Kentucky. Ky. Const. § 77. However, if you have been convicted of a federal felony, the President must grant you pardon in order to have your right to vote restored. U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 1.
You may be wondering, should I try to register to vote even though I am a convicted felon?
The short answer is no. In Kentucky, it is a Class D felony to wrongfully register to vote, which means you could get between one and five years in prison. KRS § 119.025; KRS § 532.020(1)(a). At the federal level, it is a crime to knowingly give false information in voting or registering to vote, which includes registering to vote as a convicted felon. The penalty is up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. 52 U.S.C.A. § 10307(c).
To find out if you are eligible to restore your right to vote, please visit Unconvicted for a free evaluation to see if you can have not only your voting rights, but all of your civil rights restored.