Formerly Disenfranchised Kentucky Voters Cast Their Ballots Monday, Jun 22 2020 

For many in the Ohio Valley, voting is a choice, a right they are free to exercise if they want to. But for Jackie McGranahan and the more than 175,000 other formerly disenfranchised Kentuckians, this primary election is special. It’s her first chance to vote since 2008. 

She won’t be going to a voting booth. Elections are a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most voting in Kentucky is happening by mail. But even though she couldn’t go to the polls with her friends or be handed her ‘I Voted’ sticker, that didn’t stop McGranahan from savoring the moment of voting.

“I filled out the absentee ballot. I signed my name and I waited for my postman to come so I could hand it to him directly from my porch to know that my vote will be counted, that I have a voice,” McGranahan said.

ACLU of Kentucky

Jackie McGranahan

McGranahan lost her right to vote after being convicted of a felony drug-related charge. Until late last year, Kentucky banned people with felony records from voting, even after completing their sentences. Now, Kentucky is catching up to Ohio, West Virginia, and 46 other states, at least temporarily, by allowing some people who have served their sentences after being convicted of a felony to cast a ballot. Following up on a campaign promise, Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order shortly after taking office, restoring voting rights for people who have served their time for non-violent, non-sexual felony offenses.

McGranahan has been sober and in recovery for more than four years. She works with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and said normally she’s the one pushing other people to exercise their right to vote. She said so many people like her know what it’s like to not have a voice in politics.

“I remember on Election Day that everyone was taking pictures of their I voted sticker, and it was all over Facebook,” she said. “And it was really exciting for people, but for me, it was a different feeling. You know, it’s kind of, it’s an empty feeling.”

McGranahan remembers the moment her colleague called her to give her the good news. 

“She called to say, ‘Jackie, you can vote.’ And I remember that feeling with tears running down my face that it seemed unreal, but it was so exciting,” she said. “And my heart was filled, completely filled with just excitement, and energy, anticipation.”

McGranahan said the moment was short-lived and bittersweet because so many other people who have been convicted of a felony still can’t vote in Kentucky. 

Temporary Right  

Kate Miller is the advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky. She said she’s glad to see the progress that’s been made in the Commonwealth to expand access to voting for more people. But, she doesn’t think Beshear’s executive order goes far enough.

“We don’t think that anyone should lose their right to vote to begin with,” Miller said. “We think that individuals who are currently incarcerated because of felony convictions should be able to vote. And that’s true regardless of what they’re convicted of.” 

Miller said a year ago she never thought the state would see progress on the restoration of voting rights for Kentuckians, but she was impressed with one bill proposed in the 2020 legislative session.

“It was the cleanest bill that we’ve seen in a long time,” she said. “I think, ever, in terms of not excluding individuals not having a waiting period, not putting up additional barriers.”

Miller said that the ACLU often has to compromise, but when amending the state constitution there are only so many opportunities. In this year’s General Assembly, there was a bill proposed that would amend the state’s constitution and automatically restore the right to vote for many Kentuckians. The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Marion County and passed out of committee, but ultimately wasn’t put up for a vote in the full legislature. 

Miller said there’s nothing more fundamental in a democracy than having the opportunity to weigh in on who the decision-makers are for your community.

Beshear said he does not think everyone who has committed a felony should get back the right to vote. He said in his time as Attorney General, he saw the trauma that violent crimes such as rape, human trafficking, and murder can cause a family and community. 

“There are some crimes that are just so bad and the trauma is so severe that I don’t think it’s appropriate to restore those rights,” he said.

It took two Beshear governors to make the change for people like McGranahan. Andy Beshear’s father, former Gov, Steve Beshear, had signed an executive order on his way out of the office in 2015 to restore voting rights to some people with felony records. When former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin took his place in 2015 he quickly rescinded the order. That’s why Beshear wants to see the change made permanent, which would require an amendment to the state’s constitution.

“This is something that is a great step but ought to be enshrined with a constitutional amendment because it ought to become automatic and not depend on who the governor is,” he said.

Because her right to vote isn’t permanent, McGranahan said she wanted to savor the moment of filling in her ballot, not knowing how many more chances she’ll get. 

“It’s constant anxiety, knowing that in the back of my mind…like I’m very, I’m extremely excited to vote but then knowing, that this could be the last time,” she said.

Beshear also launched a website where people can check to see if they qualify for having their voting rights automatically restored. Kentuckians can check their voter registration online, and sign up to be able to vote in November. It’s unclear if absentee voting will be expanded in the Ohio Valley for the general election.

 

Stranger Danger: Don’t give power to protesters Tuesday, Sep 17 2019 

By Ben Goldberger —

Last week two men stood outside the Student Activity Center next to a large picture of a bloodied infant and posters displaying religious propaganda to express their opinions about issues such as abortion and homosexuality. 

One of the men said, “Men and women are equal, but women have a different purpose.” When asked by a student in front of the group what women’s purpose is, he confidently stated to serve God and her husband.

While these ideas may seem too controversial to be spread legally on campus, they technically are. This is explained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

“[People] have the right to speak out, hand out flyers and petitions, and wear expressive clothing in school-as long as [they] don’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate school policies that don’t hinge on the message expressed,” their website said. In these situations, the protesters have to register with the Dean of Students to be approved to be on campus spreading their beliefs on a certain date and time.

These men had gone through the correct protocol through the school to legally share their ideology. 

The natural reaction to this type of situation is for a group of spectators to form because it is alarming to see someone yelling offensive and misogynistic ideas.

That being said, forming a group around these people spewing such opinions is one of the worst things that can be done in these situations. 

Social Work master student Aaron Spalding arrived in a clown costume to both counter-protest and mock them.

“The Supreme Court has said the correct way to deal with free speech you don’t agree with, such as theirs, is to either ignore it, which would be the best option,” he said. “Or, mock it.”

All these propagandists want is an audience to listen to their extremist views. By forming a group around them and interacting with them, students are providing just that. There is no chance that their minds will be changed from a conversation with a student. The best thing to do in these situations is to stick to the rule all young kids learn:

Don’t talk to strangers. 

These are not two family relatives or distant friends. These are strangers sharing their political views to get a reaction. By ignoring what they are saying, they might relocate. They cannot succeed in spreading their views if nobody listens to them. 

This type of situation should be handled similar to how one would handle a bully. The website GoodTherapy said, “Reacting negatively to their behavior may signal to the bully that they are having an effect, propping up their perceived position of power.” When protesters get a reaction, they receive validation they are doing their job of spreading their beliefs.

Act like they don’t exist, and they will eventually get tired of never reaching their goal.

As a public university in a major city, these events are likely to happen again. In these situations, the power is the students to give. Students can decide to interact with these propagandists and give them the power they are seeking, or resist the urge to shoot down these offensive beliefs and keep the power away from them.

Don’t take the bait, no matter how tempting it is. 

The post Stranger Danger: Don’t give power to protesters appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

Metro Council Passes Ordinance To Crack Down On Panhandling And Jaywalking Thursday, Aug 8 2019 

The Louisville Metro Council has passed an ordinance that would fine pedestrians — including panhandlers and jaywalkers. It was billed as a public safety measure and was supported by council members who say it is designed to prevent pedestrian fatalities on busy roads.

The new rule passed Thursday night limits the permissible reasons pedestrians may approach vehicles in intersections, defines where it is safe to cross roads on foot, and prohibits individuals from lingering on medians.

Groups including some labor union leaders and the American Civil Liberties Union initially criticized the ordinance for potentially infringing free speech rights. But after the vote on an amended version of the ordinance, the ACLU tweeted that Louisvillians’ First Amendment rights would not be affected while on sidewalks.

Others say it could unduly punish those who travel on foot.

District 9 councilman Bill Hollander, who voted against the measure, said his constituents in neighborhoods like Clifton and Crescent Hill frequently cross roads away from intersections. The ordinance includes jaywalking among infractions that could carry fines of $25 to $250.

 “I know, in my district, that happens every single night, every night, every hour. I’ve had people tell me there is no other place they can safely cross, except not at an intersection. I’ve had people in wheelchairs,” Hollander said.

The ordinance passed easily with a 17 to 7 vote.

Appeals Court Hears Ky. Abortion Bill, While Bevin Ceremonially Signs Other Abortion Measures Thursday, Aug 8 2019 

On the same day Gov. Matt Bevin ceremonially signed four new abortion-related bills into law, a three-judge panel heard oral arguments Thursday in a case debating the legality of a state law that requires abortion providers have a written agreement with a hospital to transfer patients in case of an emergency. That law has been held up in courts since 2017.

A federal judge struck down the law late last year, but the state appealed that decision. Now it’s being considered by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Former Republican State Representative Addia Wuchner, who was present during the oral arguments and supports the law, said requiring a transfer agreement sets a basic standard of care for people seeking abortions. It kicks into effect if there’s an emergency like hemorrhaging.

“This shouldn’t be [about] those that would be supportive of abortion, or those who would be opponents to abortion: this is really a women’s health matter,” Wuchner said. “It’s about making sure that when that transfer occurs, there’s already protocols set in place — emergency rooms don’t do abortions every day.”

But the American Civil Liberties Union argues requiring these agreements puts a bigger burden on patients that outweighs any potential benefit. Heather Gatnarek, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Kentucky, said if the transfer agreement law is enforced, the only abortion clinic left in Kentucky — the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville — would lose its license and shut down.

“There would have been no clinic in the state of Kentucky, which is an incredible burden on patient’s ability to access care, about the most burdensome you can get,” Gatnarek said. “There is no evidence put forth that patients who go to hospitals that have transfer agreements are better cared for than those without.”

Bevin Signs Laws

Also on Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin ceremonially signed into law four abortion-related bills that passed this year’s legislature. Bevin has previously stated he is the most “pro-life” governor in the U.S.

Two of the state’s new laws have already been temporarily blocked in court after the ACLU sued the state. The first bans abortion if a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected – usually around six weeks of pregnancy. The other bans abortion if a person is seeking the procedure because of the fetus’ sex, race or a potential disability. Those cases are pending in federal court based in Louisville.

Another bill is already in effect. This law was known as the “abortion reversal” bill. It makes abortion providers give patients information about potentially reversing a medically-induced abortion. Research on the effectiveness of a so-called abortion reversal is inconclusive. Medical professionals, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, say the procedure is unproven. The ACLU hasn’t sued over this law, but says they’re monitoring the measure’s enforcement.

The last bill Bevin signed is HB148, which would make abortion illegal in Kentucky if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Attorney Heather Gatnarek said the ACLU of Kentucky hasn’t filed suit on this because the organization has more pressing laws to focus on. 

“We have a lot of lawsuits that need our attention, and some of which would make it nearly or actually impossible for people to obtain abortion care in Kentucky,” Gatnarek said. “So right now, those are the lawsuits that we are our most focusing on.”

Abortion Views

On Thursday morning, Planned Parenthood of Kentucky released poll results from a survey of 500 registered Kentucky voters and their views on abortion and reproductive health. The poll shows that views on abortions may have changed since 2014, when the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of Kentuckians said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and thirty-six percent said the procedure should be legal in all or most cases.

About 26 percent of people in the Planned Parenthood poll said abortions should be legal and only have limited regulation, 16 percent said abortion regulations are necessary and that it should be legal and 37 percent said abortion be legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a woman. Eighteen percent said abortions should be illegal in all cases.

About 65 percent of those polled responded that access to reproductive health options, including abortion, was “important.”  And about 86 percent support “medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sex education in the public schools,” that would include information on abstinence, STDs and birth control.

Other findings:

  • 38 percent of people said the state legislature is putting too many restrictions on abortion. 30 percent said not enough, and 18 percent said just right.
  • 65 percent of people said they would have doubts about a law that bans abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion.
  • 81 percent of people agreed that birth control is a part of health care overall.
  • Almost 40 percent of people were more likely to vote for a candidate because they voted to restrict abortion access, while 41 percent said they were less likely to vote for that person.

The poll was taken in June by Lake Research Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that consults for progressive organizations. Forty-eight percent of those polled were Democrats, 41 percent were Republicans and 11 percent were unaffiliated.