top of page

Notes for Chase School of Law Talk re: Kentucky's Felon Disenfranchisement Practices

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

On February 19, I had a chance to speak to students at Salmon P. Chase School of Law at Northern Kentucky University about Kentucky's worst-in-the-nation practice of permanently barring every person with a felony conviction from voting unless a person specifically applies for and receives a restoration of their voting rights from Kentucky's Governor. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center and the Fair Elections Center currently represent eight former felons in a case pending in federal court in the Eastern District of Kentucky. The case, Lostutter v. Bevin, brings two claims under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The first challenges the arbitrary, unfettered power of Kentucky's Governor to restore former felons' voting rights; the second claim challenges the Governor's practice of letting people's applications languish with no answer rather than timely making a decision (any decision), yay or nay.

Here are some links for people interested in this issue:

  • A May 2018 column I wrote about the Fair Election Center's case in Florida. This column contains a number of useful links and Kentucky-specific statistics.

  • The Sentencing Project's 2016 Report: Six Million Lost Voters

  • Judge Walker's Order in the Florida Case, Hand v. Scott

  • Fair Elections Center's brief to the 11th Circuit in Hand v. Scott. This contains an extensive articulation of the application of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1st Amendment jurisprudence to a state's process for restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions.

  • The Brennan Center's page cataloging the recent history of felon disenfranchisement in Kentucky. This contains links to the Executive Orders issued by Governors Bevin and Beshear on this issue.

  • The Kentucky League of Women Voters released a report on felony disenfranchisement in January of 2019, along with polling that showed strong, bipartisan support for a constitutional amendment automatically restoring voting rights once a person has served his or her full sentence.

  • Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Kentucky's League of Women Voters have led on this issue for more than a decade.

  • A brilliant article by a DOJ attorney, Avner Shapiro, published in February of 2017 by the American Constitution Society, “A Pragmatic Approach to Challenging Felon Disenfranchisement Laws,” outlines a theory of a case that would attack felon disenfranchisement as applied to people convicted of low-level drug felonies because a) these felonies were not felonies when state constitutions were enacted, b) they have been enforced in demonstrably racist ways, and c) as such pose a barrier to the ballot based on race, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

  • "Existing Landscape for New Lawyers" is a document that contains a lot of info and links for lawyers and aspiring lawyers in Kentucky hoping to work in the nonprofit/social justice space.


bottom of page