Do we believe a person can be redeemed or not? That's the question at the heart of the debate about the restoration of the right to vote after a person convicted of a felony has paid his or her debt to society.
Seven percent of all voting-age Kentuckians cannot vote; as former felons they have lost their right to vote.
Under Section 145 of the Kentucky Constitution, the Governor can restore a former felon's right to vote. To apply for restoration, a felon must fill out an "Application for Restoration of Civil Rights" and return it to:
Department of Corrections
Division of Probation & Parole
Attn: Restoration of Civil Rights
P.O. Box 2400
Frankfort, KY 40602-2400
Long term, the solution is amending Kentucky's Constitution to make automatic restoration once a felon has paid his debt to society. Short term, making it as easy as possible for former felons to ask the Governor to restore their right to vote is the best we can do.
I have created a form that Kentuckians can fill out online, print, sign, and return to the address above. The applicant's signature must be notarized (search by city or zip code) or witnessed by the applicant's probation and parole officer.
Please note: this form cannot be saved online or submitted online. If you get stuck, fill out as much as you can, print it, and then fill out the rest as you collect the required information. You can also just right-click and save the file and fill it in later.
We will fix this broken system eventually. This opt-in system keeps 243,000 Kentuckians off of the voter rolls. We will fix this with a system of automatic restoration. For now, though, we need to make applying for restoration of civil rights as frictionless as possible. This is my small attempt to contribute something valuable.
The reality of judicial races is that people who work outside our legal system feel ill-equipped to cast an informed ballot. I'm often asked by my non-lawyer friends who they should vote for in judicial races. In the Court of Appeals race in Jefferson County, I suggest a vote for Judge Jim Shake.
Judge Shake is a smart, pragmatic judge that works hard and takes risks to ensure that everyone has access to the court system and that the courts are solving problems. I know. In 2009, as the Chief Judge of the Jefferson Circuit Court, Judge Shake worked with advocates for homeowners (I was an attorney for the Legal Aid Society at the time), bank attorneys, community groups, and the court system to create the Foreclosure Conciliation Project. With the FCP, Jefferson County became the first court system in the state to attempt to address the exploding numbers of foreclosures in our community.
As part of the project, Judge Shake ensured that each homeowner facing foreclosure received credible, timely information about alternatives to foreclosure and steps to take to avoid foreclosure. The FCP provided homeowners with outreach, housing counseling, legal representation, and an opportunity to meet with their banks to pursue these alternatives. Hundreds of homeowners saved their home through the process that Judge Shake created and the lessons we learned in Jefferson County have influenced similar programs across the state.
Judge Shake has been a judge for 19 years. He knows the immense impact the courts have on Kentuckian's lives. The courts impact lives not just in individual cases, but also in the processes and procedures they build to solve emerging problems like the foreclosure crisis. I'm supporting Judge Shake because he has shown the willingness and ability to solve problems—big and small—as a judge.