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July 20, 2023


LEXINGTON, KY (July 20, 2023) – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected disenfranchised Kentuckians’ challenge to Kentucky’s arbitrary voting rights restoration scheme. The lawsuit, Lostutter v. Kentucky, was filed by Fair Elections Center and Kentucky Equal Justice Center against Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, on behalf of all Kentuckians with any out-of-state and federal felony convictions, as well as certain Kentucky convictions.

“In Kentucky, a person with a felony conviction must apply for and obtain the Governor’s permission to once again vote,”said Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel at Fair Elections Center and leading counsel in the lawsuit. “During oral arguments, Governor Beshear’s counsel stated that such applicants must be ‘worthy’ of regaining their voting rights, and the Governor enjoys sole and unfettered authority to decide who is ‘worthy.’ This standard is wholly subjective and arbitrary, and the First Amendment is violated when any form of political expression is subjected to arbitrary government control. Kentucky’s restoration scheme is patently unconstitutional and deeply un-American. Today, a panel of Sixth Circuit judges decided that forcing people with felony convictions to beg the Governor to grant them the right to vote is not a licensing scheme. With respect for the Court, we disagree with this conclusion and are weighing further steps.”

Kentucky is one of the last states in the nation where voting rights restoration is left solely to the discretion of government officials. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2019 against former Governor Matt Bevin, argued that, without any rules and guiding criteria for restoration, Kentuckians seeking restoration are subject to arbitrary decision-making and the risk of biased treatment, violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

To schedule interviews with lead counsel or current and former plaintiffs on the case, please contact

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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.

Kentucky Equal Justice Center is a public interest advocacy organization working to promote equal justice for all residents of the Commonwealth by serving as an advocate for low income and other vulnerable members of society.


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