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.

 

Vote Like Your Life Depends on It Sunday, Sep 29 2019 

By Ben Goldberger —

Voting in Kentucky is Nov. 5 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Everyone should vote, because to some people, their lives depend on it.

Volunteers have already been asking students if they are registered to vote, and although it can be frustrating, it is necessary.

While nobody likes to be bombarded with questions from a stranger on their way to class, it is so important to know your voting status. 

The issues brought up on the political stage affect everyone, and voting is the way to make voices heard on a national level.

It is easy to dismiss voting with the belief that one vote won’t change the election, but that thought is what causes young voters to not go to the polls. This is an extremely dangerous outlook that ends up hurting the country.

According to the Pew Research Center, it is expected that one in every 10 voters in 2020 will be from Generation Z. Combined with the Millennial vote, youth voters are around 40 percent of the population. 

However, if voters from these generations decide not to vote, older voters will decide the political officials that shape our country. This puts candidates in office that will benefit them instead of the newer generations.

“I think it’s pertinent for young people to vote because we have a unique experience where the policy changes that are made affect us for a long period of time,” senior Cultural Non-Profit Development major Arii Lynton-Smith said.

One of the biggest examples of this is the climate change emergency. This issue is going to affect younger voters for the rest of their lives, but it is not as much of an issue for most older voters. If younger voters and politicians do not get involved, these issues will never be dealt with until it is too late. 

This election, almost all statewide positions are open, meaning the whole political scene in Kentucky can change. Gov. Matt Bevin is up for reelection after being named the country’s least popular state governor this year. Bevin is being challenged by the current Attorney General and son of Bevin’s predecessor, Andy Beshear.

All other major roles in the government are up for election this year as well, so this is the time to utilize your civil right and duty to vote. 

When asked why voting is important to her, Lynton-Smith said, “Just 60 years ago, people that looked like me were bullied and kept out of the polls.”

Voting is not a chore. It’s a privilege.

In such a diverse nation, it is critical for people of all different backgrounds to vote in every election in order to truly represent the ideas and needs of this country.

If nothing else, vote for your peers who cannot. Vote for the students victimized in way too many school shootings whose lives were taken before they had the opportunity to vote. Vote for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of other innocent African-American teenagers who have had their opportunity taken away from them by police officers. 

Vote while you still can, because in this country, you never know when that will be taken away from you. 

Graphic by Alexis Simon / The Louisville Cardinal

The post Vote Like Your Life Depends on It appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

Students learn the cost of a vote is different for everyone Wednesday, Sep 25 2019 

By Madelynn Bland —

The Women’s Center hosted an educational event in the Red Barn to both celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to educate on the women’s suffrage movement.
Jamieca Jones, a Program Coordinator with the U of L Women’s Center talked about how there are still difficulties voting today.
“There are still people to this very day who are facing barriers to voting. We will talk a bit about the suffrage history here in Louisville and nationally but I really wanted to branch out and say ‘Hey, what is the cost of a vote to you’ because sometimes it costs more for others,” she said.
Representatives of many cultures and groups that still have barriers when it comes to election day educated the audience about their struggles.
Former professor Shameka Parrish-Wright said Kentucky has the most incarcerated women in the United States and yet has some of the hardest processes to get people voting again once they’re out of the system.
They also spoke on the many issues Latinx people face when voting like language barriers and a lack of translators and their ID’s being rejected.
Finn Depriest, a work study student for the Women’s Center, said the seminar’s purpose was to broaden people’s understanding that the 19th amendment doesn’t encompass all women. On such a diverse campus, it is especially important for all students to realize the large amount of groups that still struggle to vote.
The Engage Lead Serve Board will be hosting more events through September with the hope that more women, and students in general, will understand the power of their vote and will make their voices heard loud and clear in the upcoming elections.

Graphic by Alexis Simon / The Louisville Cardinal

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