Kentucky Has Country’s Highest Rate of Black Disenfranchisement
Nearly one in 10 adults in Kentucky, and one in four African Americans, has a felony record that bans them from voting for life. It is the nation’s highest rate of Black disenfranchisement. And among African American males specifically, the rate is considered even higher: an estimated one in three. Feeding these statistics are the tough-on-crime ethos of the 1980s and 1990s, when life-destroying penalties were imposed for nonviolent violations like low-volume drug sales and failure to pay alimony. Voting-age Kentuckians with felony records rose nearly fourfold from 1980 to 2010. Among Black residents, it grew nearly sevenfold. Despite changes to criminal sentencing guidelines seven years ago and a declining crime rate, the NYT reports that the state’s prison population continues to rise, with well over half the 24,000-plus prisoners warehoused in overcrowded county jails. In 2015, Kentucky’s departing Democratic governor issued an executive order restoring voting rights to 140,000 residents with nonviolent felony records, only to see his Republican successor reverse the edict shortly after taking office. Iowa and Florida are the only other two states that impose lifetime bans. However, polls indicate that Floridians are poised to approve Amendment Four today, which would restore rights to 1.4 million residents who have completed their sentences. More here.