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New polling suggests Kentuckians support amendment to automatically restore voting rights

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky has released statewide polling results indicating Kentuckians support the automatic restoration of voting rights upon completion of felony sentences by more than a 2-1 margin.

Overall, 67% were in favor, with 28% opposed, according to a February 1-4 statewide poll of Kentucky registered voters conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida.

The polling indicates that the highest support for automatic restoration is from those 18-34 years of age
with approval at 84% and disapproval at 9%. Kentucky male voters support automatic restoration with 63% approving and 34% not approving. Kentucky women voters support restoration by a larger majority with 71% approving and 22% not approving.

The number of people in Kentucky who support the automatic restoration of voting rights upon completion of a felony sentence is increasing. The current 67% approval of automatic restoration by Kentucky voters has increased from the 66% approval in the 2018 Mason-Dixon poll and the 56% approval in a 2006 poll of Kentucky voters conducted by the UK Survey Research Center.

“A constitutional amendment is needed to bring KY into the norm nationally and Kentuckians show strong, sustained support for this commonsense change,” said Fran Wagner, League President. “The time is now for HB 232 to be passed.”

“It is time to lift the ‘invisible punishment’ of felon disenfranchisement and grant them the complete rights of citizenship,” said Gennaro F. Vito,a professor in the University of Louisville Department of Criminal Justice, who analyzed the poll data.

These Kentucky poll results are consistent with public opinion surveys nationally that report eight in ten U.S. residents support voting rights restoration for citizens who have completed their sentence, and nearly two-thirds support voting rights for those on probation or parole. National polling in 2020 by the Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress indicates that there is “bipartisan majority support for restoring voting rights to people who have returned home from prison. The polling also shows that more people support than oppose abolishing felony disenfranchisement entirely.”

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky’s recently released report, An Update: Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, shows that despite real progress, many remain disenfranchised. Our Commonwealth ranks the fourth-worst state for restoring voting rights and has the seventh-highest rate of disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the nation. Of the 256,024 African-Americans of voting age in Kentucky, 38,665 or 15.1% are disenfranchised. Kentucky is an outlier. Only 3 states ban persons who have completed their sentence from voting.

HB 232, sponsored by Representative Jason Nemes and co-sponsored by 10 other legislators of both political parties, proposes to amend Section 145 of the Constitution of Kentucky to automatically restore the voting rights of persons convicted of certain felonies upon completion of their imprisonment, probation, or parole. The League supports HB 232 without amendment.

This poll results and the 2021 League’s Felony Disenfranchisement Report, along with the 2020, 2019, 2017, 2013 and 2006 Reports, are available at www.lwvky.org.

League of Women Voters of Kentucky

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