WASHINGTON, DC (November 29, 2023) – Today Fair Elections Center held a press call on its petition to the Supreme Court to hear Aleman v. Beshear, a lawsuit against Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear challenging the state’s arbitrary voting rights restoration system, which particularly impacts Kentuckians with any out-of-state convictions and any federal convictions.
Under the current system, Kentuckians who have served sentences for past felony convictions must individually petition the Governor to regain their voting rights. The lawsuit, filed in 2019 against former Gov. Matt Bevin, argues that without any rules and criteria, applicants seeking restoration are subject to arbitrary decision-making and the risk of biased treatment, violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The case has major implications for arbitrary rights restoration systems in states like Virginia, where Fair Elections Center is also suing Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and the very few others where government officials are given the sole and absolute power over who can and cannot regain the right to vote.
“After four and a half years of litigation, two dismissals, two trips up on appeal to the Sixth Circuit, we have now reached the U.S. Supreme Court. For 85 years, the Supreme Court has prohibited laws that give governmental officials absolute discretion to grant or deny licenses to engage in First Amendment-protected activity, which voting is,” said Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel at Fair Elections Center and leading counsel in the lawsuit. “Kentucky is one of the last holdouts in the nation that forces disenfranchised people with felony convictions to seek the blessing of a government official in order to regain their right to vote. One day, this practice of arbitrary voting rights restoration will be struck down as unconstitutional.”
“Since my release from incarceration, I’ve worked hard to give back to others in the community and help improve the lives of my fellow Kentuckians through our political system. When I applied to have my voting rights restored, it was a confusing process and my application is still pending two years later,” said Bonifacio Aleman, a disenfranchised Kentuckian and plaintiff in the case. “We shouldn’t have to rely on the good will of the governor or any other official when it comes to being allowed a full place in the democratic process. We need a clear path forward for people like me who have paid their debt to society and want to participate as returning citizens. I believe I deserve the right to vote - and that all Kentuckians should have the opportunity to be a part of a healthy, unrestricted democracy.”
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Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization based in Washington, D.C. using litigation, public education and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities.