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Rick Petro on restoring his voting rights

I am 66 years old and have been a homeowner and resident of Kentucky for more than 20 years. I have never been arrested, investigated, or convicted of any crime against the Commonwealth of Kentucky. More than 42 years ago I made a mistake which resulted in a felony conviction in another state. That state restored my voting rights to me in 1992. I was allowed to vote from 1992 to 2002. Once I moved to Kentucky my right was automatically taken away, simply because I moved across the river from Indiana to Kentucky. If I were to move back across the river I could vote again. I have never re-offended and it is not right to keep me from voting. Every citizen should have the right to have a voice in electing those who are making the decisions on issues affecting their lives and well-being.

While I was incarcerated I spent my time with education and counseling. I earned my General Education Degree and Pell and SEOG grants allowed me to attend the University of Wisconsin (at Baraboo) where I obtained 59 credit hours of the 60 required for my Associates degree. I’ve completed 1500 hours in barbering vocational training (enough to obtain my licenses in Indiana), 2500+ hours in building trades vocational trainings, and I completed 1200 hours in small engine repair vocational training. I have also spent two years in a specialized therapeutic community, underwent individual and group counseling, completed an anger management course, cognitive behavior therapy, critical thinking classes, and completed drug and alcohol counseling.

Seems a waste for taxpayers to spend all that money to "rehabilitate" me and then to deny me my right to vote, especially since I have gone all these decades without another offense. The system worked for me. I've earned redemption.

In the fall of 2018, I learned of a non-profit organization, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), which does work to inform and educate the public on voter disenfranchisement and many other issues. I became a volunteer and a member of the Voting Rights Committee. As such, I worked in consultation with more than 42 other organizations on voting rights. In March 2019 and 2020, I went to the Kentucky State Capitol to lobby state representatives and senators and spoke at the Voting Rights rallies to help inform the public.

My 2020 trip was especially memorable because I had used the last of my money to rent a vehicle to make the trip to Frankfort. I ended up having to make an emergency stop because my oxygen concentrator batteries went dead. The car's cigarette lighter was disabled and I could not recharge it. I ended up sleeping in a Walmart parking lot while a friendly Walmart associate charged my batteries for me. Fortunately. I made it to the Capitol just in time and was able to trade my rental for another vehicle for the trip home.

I have spoken to various other groups, such as the Western Kentucky Reentry Council. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent many weekends at local festivals and events informing the public about voter disenfranchisement and registering new voters. I particularly enjoyed going to Murray State University and registering new first-time voters.

The reason why getting my right to vote back is so important to me is because it is the one opportunity I have to make my voice heard on issues that affect my family and me. My only power is in my vote, and no responsible person should have to give up their voice and have others make decisions on their behalf. I pay taxes too, and what I think should count just as much as my neighbors. Voting is the only way to make a change, to better our lives and our communities.

I have availed myself at every opportunity to become a responsible, productive law-abiding citizen. Having completed all the terms of my sentence more than 26 years ago, the fact that I still cannot vote should be appalling to all.

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