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Kentucky's New Democratic Governor Promises to Enfranchise 100,000

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Andy Beshear promised to restore the voting rights of  more than 100,000 former felons in his Inaugural speech Tuesday. The newly elected governor won by 5,100 votes last month. 

“My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches forgiveness,” Beshear, a Democrat, said during his speech from the steps of the Kentucky capital in Frankfort. “That’s why on Thursday, I will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to over 100,000 men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now.”

“They deserve to participate in our great democracy,” Beshear added. “By taking this step, by restoring these voting rights, we declare that everyone in Kentucky counts. We all matter.”

Kentucky imposes lifetime voting bans on felons, one of the most stringent bans in the nation, though felons can petition the governor to restore their vote. The League of Women Voters estimates more than 312,000 Kentuckians have been denied the right to vote because of felony convictions.

Former Governor, Steve Beshear, the new governor’s father, issued a similar executive order in November 2015 at the end of his term, but the order was rescinded by Republican Governor Matt Bevin when he took office shortly after.

This strengthens the general trend to weaken disenfranchisement laws some of which have been used to keep African Americans and other disadvantaged people from voting.