Newly inaugurated Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Thursday signed an executive order that would restore voting rights to more 140,000 people who were convicted of nonviolent felonies, making Iowa the only state that still bars anyone who is convicted of a felony from voting.
“My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches forgiveness and that is why I am restoring voting rights to over one hundred forty thousand Kentuckians who have done wrong in the past, but are doing right now,” Beshear said in a statement.
“I want to lift up all of our families and I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect and expand the right to vote,” he added.
He also said in the statement that it is wrong that Kentucky has the third-highest voter disenfranchisement rate in the country.
People with convictions for certain crimes, including treason and bribery in an election, as well as violent offenses such as rape, sexual abuse and homicide, were excluded from the order.
In recent years, voting rights have also been extended in states such as Florida, leaving Iowa as the only state with a lifetime voting ban for anyone who is convicted of a felony.
Raoul Cunningham, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), hailed Beshear’s decision in the statement.
“The right to vote is one of the most valuable constitutional rights granted to most Americans and is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Cunningham said. “The NAACP commends Gov. Beshear for taking this bold step in restoring the voting rights to more than 140,000 Kentuckians convicted of a crime who have served their sentences.”
Beshear had previously pledged to sign an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 people with felony convictions during his inaugural address this week.
In November, Beshear narrowly defeated then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in an election.