In one of his last acts as Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear signed an executive order that will automatically restore the right to vote to certain felons who have served out their sentences, says the Louisville Courier-Journal. The move was hailed by some as a boost to democracy while at least one critic questioned its legality. The order achieves much of what House Democrats have sought through legislation for years, offering many felons an almost immediate opportunity to regain their rights after release. Those who have already moved out of the justice system still will be required to submit a form, though Beshear’s order streamlines the process. “To be able to have that power — to be able to vote — it’s tremendous,” said Mantell Stevens, a delivery driver who was convicted of drug possession 15 years ago. “We did the easy part. Now the hard part is actually getting people to the polls.”
Beshear’s order requires felons to meet three criteria: Ex-offenders must complete all the terms of their sentences, including probation and restitution. They must not be subject to any pending criminal charges or arrests. They cannot obtain restoration if convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, bribery or treason. If felons meet all the requirements, the Department of Corrections will issue them a certificate of restoration of civil rights upon release from custody. Those who have already left the system must file a form that is available online or at parole and probation offices. The restoration also will reinstate an ex-felon’s right to hold public office but will not return the right to possess firearms or pardon any crimes. Beshear estimated that 100,000 felons may meet the criteria.