While at least some jurisdictions in the world grant voting rights to the currently encarcerated, most U.S. states continue to impose some limitations on voting rights for convicted felons while those felons are serving their sentences. In Texas (as in a majority of states) ex-felons who have paid their debt to society are allowed to re-register and vote. But Kentucky has remained firmly entrenched in the older punitive model of denying all voting rights to anyone convicted of a felony.
So it’s heartening to see that the Kentucky legislature is finally moving to ease up voting restrictions for people who have completed all phases of their punishment. In a pattern that Texas experienced 40 years ago, the more conservative members of the Kentucky Legislature would like to see a post-incarceration waiting period of five years after release of all other disabilities of punishment.
On the one hand, any easing of the traditional view that felony acts “corrupt” the civic authority of individual voters is to be welcome. But I’d suggest that Kentucky save itself a little time and trouble by jumping ahead to the mid-1980s, by abandoning frankly punitive waiting periods before granting the vote.
Now, if only Virginia could get with the program.