Dave Stengel Supports movement to restore felons right to vote

Dec. 26, 2007 – Joe Gerth reported in the Courier Journal the effort to seek a constitutional amendment to allow felons who have served their time, to regain their right to vote in Kentucky.  For full story see:  Felons’ voting rights may change
Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Dave Stengel supports the measure, whlle Fayette County Commonwealth Attorney Ray Larson opposes the measure.
Excerpts from Courier Journal article:
According to the Voting Rights Coalition — which includes groups such as the NAACP, the Kentucky Council of Churches, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and the League of Women Voters of Kentucky — about 128,775 adults in Kentucky have served their time but aren’t allowed to vote.

The League of Women Voters says Kentucky has the nation’s highest disenfranchisement rate for African Americans — about one in four — in part because of the ban on felons voting.

But another hurdle the measure faces is opposition from legislators who want to appear tough on crime, said Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Stengel, who favors it.

“I think (many lawmakers) think it’s just a bleeding-heart bill,” Stengel said.

In 2007, a Senate Bill to restore voting rights for felons died in the Senate Judiciary Committee without a vote.

Stengel’s counterpart in Fayette County, Ray Larson, opposes the amendment.

“I think people can outlive a felony conviction and can earn the right back, but I don’t think it should just be given to them,” Larson said. “I don’t want them … voting until they prove they are a contributing member of the community.”

The proposed amendment would leave in place the voting ban for those convicted of “intentionally killing” someone, for child molesters and for anyone charged with rape or deviate sexual intercourse.

Stengel, who served in the Kentucky House before being elected commonwealth’s attorney, said he would favor restoring voting rights to all felons who complete their sentences, no matter the crime.

He noted that the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association has said it doesn’t oppose the idea, depending on the wording of the amendment.

When Kentucky’s constitution was written, Stengel said, the criminal justice system was more focused on punishment than rehabilitation.

“We spend money to rehabilitate them and then we deny them one of the basic rights of society, to participate in democracy,” Stengel said. “It doesn’t make sense. … I think anyone who wants to vote should be able to. They have paid their debt to society so why continue punishing them?”

Constitutional amendments must be approved by a three-fifths majority in both houses of the General Assembly, and then by voters in a referendum.

Comments are closed.