Kentucky NAACP Launches Billboard Campaign to Combat Felony Disenfranchisement

The Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP continues their efforts to combat felony disenfranchisement in the state.

(Frankfort, KY)—Following huge steps by Iowa and Virginia governors to restore the votes of those with felony convictions, the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP will launch the Restore the Votes Campaign to continue their fight to combat felony disenfranchisement. The NAACP will host a month long billboard in Frankfort in conjunction with state conference efforts on the ground to bring awareness to the issue.
 
“Felony disenfranchisement blights our nation’s Democracy,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Voting is a right and civic engagement is redemptive. If someone returns from prison wanting to vote, that is precisely the sort of behavior we should encourage, not prohibit.”

According to data provided by The Sentencing Project, Kentucky strips an estimated 243,842 of their voting rights. Because Kentucky does not automatically restore the votes of returning citizens, only 22,543 of these individuals are currently incarcerated. Nearly 181,000, or 74 percent, of Kentucky’s disenfranchised population, have completed all the terms of their sentence.

The impact of felony disenfranchisement laws is felt disproportionately across demographics. Although the number of those disenfranchised by these laws only amount to seven percent of Kentucky’s voting eligible residents, the number of Kentucky’s disenfranchised African Americans represent 22 percent of the state’s voting eligible black residents.  Similar to overall numbers, nearly 75 percent of disenfranchised African Americans have completed all the terms of their sentence.

“All Kentucky voters suffer from laws and practices blocking the vote of its fellow residents,” said William Cofield, President of the NAACP Kentucky State Conference.  “Although Kentucky officials have done much to simplify the application process the numbers show that it has not done enough. Kentucky cannot claim victory on this issue until Democracy is guaranteed for all returning citizens.”

Other states are beginning to change the tide. On December 28, 2012, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad released a more streamlined restoration of voting rights application for returning citizens, removing unnecessary credit checks and adjusting payment policies.  Last Wednesday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell made a push for the automatic restoration of rights for non-violent offenders during his annual State of the Commonwealth address. To date, Virginia has restored more than 4,000 votes.

The Restore the Votes Campaign aims to restore the rights for millions of citizens formerly convicted of felonies.  The campaign was launched in October following the NAACP’s delegation at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.  As part of the visit, the delegation held a panel discussion on felony disenfranchisement and the attack on voting rights in states across the nation.

Further data on Kentucky felony disenfranchisement laws, and their impact on voting aged citizens in Kentucky, can be found here.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors. The NAACP is a 501c3 non-partisan organization.

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