Statewide polling results released Thursday by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky reveal that Kentuckians, by more than a 2-1 margin, support automatic restoration of voting rights to people who have completed their felony prison sentences.
The majority of Kentuckians across political affiliation, gender and age categories, support the automatic restoration of voting rights, according to a February 2021 poll of Kentucky registered voters conducted by the Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida. Overall support is 67% in favor and 28% opposed in the poll taken from Feb. 1-4.
“A constitutional amendment is needed to bring Kentucky into the norm nationally and Kentuckians show strong, sustained support for this commonsense change,” said Fran Wagner, League president, in a news release. “The time is now for HB 232 to be passed.”
HB 232, found at: 21RS HB 232 (ky.gov) proposes to amend Section 145 of the Constitution of Kentucky to automatically restore the voting rights of persons convicted of certain felonies upon completion of their imprisonment, probation or parole. The bill is sponsored by Representative Jason Nemes and co-sponsored by 10 other legislators of both political parties. The League supports HB 232 without amendment.
According to the poll, the highest support for automatic restoration is from those 18-34 years of age with approval at 84% and disapproval at 9%.
Both men and women are in favor of the measure. Kentucky male voters support automatic restoration with 63% approving and 34% not approving. Kentucky women voters support restoration by a larger majority with 71% approving and 22% not approving, according to the LWV release.
These Kentucky poll results are consistent with public opinion surveys nationally that report eight in 10 U.S. residents support voting rights restoration for citizens who have completed their sentence, and nearly two-thirds support voting rights for those on probation or parole, according to the LWV release.
By comparison to the 2018 Mason-Dixon poll, the number of Kentuckians who support automatic restoration of voting rights upon completion of sentence is increasing. The current 67% approval of automatic restoration by Kentucky voters has increased from the 66% approval. In a 2006 poll of Kentucky voters conducted by the UK Survey Research Center, there was a 56% approval.
“It is time to lift the ‘invisible punishment’ of felon disenfranchisement and grant them the complete rights of citizenship,” said Gennaro F. Vito, University of Louisville Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, who analyzed the poll data.
National polling in 2020 by the Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress indicates that there is “bipartisan majority support for restoring voting rights to people who have returned home from prison. The polling also shows that more people support than oppose abolishing felony disenfranchisement entirely,” according to the news release.
Only three states ban individuals who have completed their prison sentence from voting.
The Commonwealth ranks the fourth worst state for restoring voting rights and has the seventh highest rate of disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the nation, according to the release. Of the 256,024 African-Americans of voting age in Kentucky, 38,665 or 15.1% are disenfranchised.
The League of Women Voters of Kentucky’s recently released report, An Update: Felony Disenfranchisement in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, shows that despite real progress, many remain disenfranchised.
This poll results and the 2021 League’s Felony Disenfranchisement Report, along with the 2020, 2019, 2017, 2013 and 2006 Reports, are available at Felony Disenfranchisement — League of Women Voters of Kentucky (lwvky.org).