6th Circuit Clears Path for KY Voting Rights Restoration Case to Be Judged on Constitutional Claims


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 4, 2021


Media Contact

Rich Robinson, rrobinson@fairelectionscenter.org


LEXINGTON, Ky. — Today, Jon Sherman, litigation director and senior counsel of Fair Elections Center and Ben Carter, senior litigation and advocacy counsel of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, issued the following statement after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found their clients’ First Amendment challenge to Kentucky’s arbitrary rights restoration system was not moot, and sent it back to district court for a ruling on the lawsuit’s constitutional claims:


Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a brief 5-page opinion, has revived our clients' claims, reversing the district court’s determination that their First Amendment challenge to Kentucky's rights restoration process for people with felony convictions was moot. The panel of three judges concluded that nothing had changed for our clients since Governor Andrew Beshear’s Executive Order did not apply to them.


Three years ago, Fair Elections Center and Kentucky Equal Justice Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight Kentuckians with felony convictions in their past. The case claimed that the restoration scheme, which gives the Governor absolute power over whether our clients can regain the right to vote, is unconstitutionally arbitrary. In August of 2020, the federal district court dismissed the lawsuit as moot, citing Gov. Beshear's executive order restoring some categories of felons, but not others. Because three of our clients were among those excluded from restoration under that order and could still only regain their right to vote by petitioning the Governor, the case was not moot, and we appealed.


The three-judge panel remanded the case to the district court for a ruling on the merits of our clients’ constitutional claims. We are gratified that our clients will finally have their day in court.


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Fair Elections Center is a national nonpartisan and non-profit voting rights and election reform organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to use litigation, public education, and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, and to improve election administration.


Kentucky Equal Justice Center is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that works to promote equal justice for all residents of the Commonwealth by advocating for low income people and other vulnerable communities.