Voting Rights work integrated with voter empowerment | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Voting Rights work integrated with voter empowerment

As the 2019 governor’s election looms close, KFTC members are continuing the fight to restore voting rights of people with felonies. The campaign is gaining momentum and getting stronger every week.

Here are a few highlights of recent work:

Brennan Center Voting Rights Summit in New York – KFTC leaders Lois Gillespie (left), Debbie Graner and KFTC Fellow Tayna Fogle visited New York as delegates from Kentucky to talk about local voting rights work. They networked with key allies across the country, who were all very interested in the work of KFTC and allies in Kentucky, and brought back some good ideas while sharing plenty of their own.

The Roots and Heritage Festival in Lexington – Kentucky’s largest annual Black community festival was a place KFTC members talked to many people about the Voting Rights issue. In all, 677 people signed the voting rights petition and KFTC connected with dozens of people who are being denied the right to vote. Three candidates for statewide office came by KFTC’s booth to express their support, including gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear.  

Rally for Recovery in Louisville – Friends at People Advocating Recovery and Young People in Recovery held a powerful Rally for Recovery in Louisville in September. Volunteers with KFTC, Poor People's Campaign and others registered voters, passed out voter guides and circulated petitions for restoration of voting rights for people with felonies in their past. In all, 242 people signed the petition and members talked to many people, including Alaina Combs of the Healing Place who spoke out at the Rally for Voting Rights in Frankfort earlier this year and has won her right to vote and will be voting this November 5!

Voting Rights Presentation with the Lexington Quakers – Led by Rolling Bluegrass Chapter leaders Rosanne Klarer and Amelia Cloud, people shared stories and discussed Voting Rights at this public meeting.

Sing for Democracy in northern Kentucky – Northern Kentucky KFTC members brought MUSE Cincinnati Women's Choir and other powerful performers out to sing, punctuated by stories from people who are being denied the right to vote. Participants also heard from tenants fighting an absent management company, a 16-year-old talking about the need for youth to be engaged and elders to listen, and other stories.

Phone banks to likely supporters – KFTC members across the state tried out a new strategy to call voters and talk to them about this issue, asking them to virtually sign onto the petition for voting rights if they support it. To be part of that effort reach out to Dave Newton at 859-420-8919 or [email protected]

Presentations at Centre College – Nia Dye and others made two presentations about Voting Rights at Centre College in Danville in connection with the Bonner Scholars, and helped circulate the petition there.

Petition drives in Berea – Berea KFTC members collected hundreds of petition signatures in support of Voting Rights in recent months at a variety of events.

NAACP’s Power to the People – Jim Gearhart, a KFTC Democracy Leader from western Kentucky appeared on the NAACP's Power to the People program to talk about voter engagement, including Restoration of Voting Rights for people with felonies in their past.

In all, more than 4,000 people have signed the Voting Rights Petition this year. Supporters can sign online at Members are encouraged to also share the petition online and ask friends and neighbors to sign it, or print off petitions from that website and circulate them.  

Looking ahead, the 2019 election is the largest opportunity to move this issue forward. KFTC will be mobilizing supporters of this issue and others to vote, and building electoral muscles for when the voting rights issue gets on the ballot in a few years.

Go to to see where candidates stand on voting rights and other issues. The governor’s race and the secretary of state’s race are particularly important for this issue.  

KFTC's New Power PAC endorsed Andy Beshear for governor, partially because he pledged to sign an executive order restoring voting rights to many thousands of Kentuckians with felonies in their past. Matt Bevin, our current governor, actually made it harder for people to get their rights back when he first took office.

Supporters also can volunteer with local KFTC chapters to work phone banks, go door-to-door, pass out voter guides at events and give people rides to the polls on Election Day.  

Starting in January, members will be back in the state capitol lobbying legislators on this issue, and there are many ways for members and supporters to plug into the effort then.

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