Politics

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin Takes Away Voting Rights With Executive Order

| by Michael Allen
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin issued a series of executive orders on Dec. 22, one of which denies voting rights to part of the state population.

Bevin ordered that county clerks’ names be removed from marriage licenses, reversed former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's executive order that most nonviolent felons have their voting rights restored and changed Beshear's order that authorized state workers and employees of state vendors to get an increase of pay from minimum wage ($7.25) to $10.10 an hour; that will now only apply to new hires, notes the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Bevin used the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act as justification to remove the names of clerks on wedding licenses, something Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis wanted.

Critics of the license change point to a state law regarding Kentucky marriage licenses, and insist a governor cannot change state law with an executive order.

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Regarding the right of most nonviolent offenders to vote, Bevin said, “While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights, it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”

Bevin said that felons can still request a restoration of their civil rights from the governor’s office, which is not the legislature or the will of the people.

Insider Louisville noted in November that Bevin supported the instant restoration of voting rights along the lines of HB 70, and thought he could change the minds of Republicans in the legislature who don't want nonviolent felons to vote, but still want them to pay taxes, which amounts to taxation without representation.

Bevin's order won't affect felons who got their voting rights restored before Nov. 24.

Democrat House Judiciary Chairman Darryl Owens, told the Lexington Herald-Leader: "I am extremely disappointed with the executive order on felon voting rights, which to me goes against promises Gov. Bevin made during his campaign. I will continue championing the amendment that will give voters a chance to put Kentucky in line with the vast majority of states on this issue."

As far as the pay cut, Bevin wrote in his order: “The minimum wage stifles job creation and disproportionately impacts lower skilled workers seeking entry-level jobs. Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.”

The notion that upping the minimum wage hurts job growth is a long-debunked claim of the Republican Party, noted MediaMatters.org.

Sources: Lexington Herald-Leader, Insider Louisville, MediaMatters.org / Photo credit: Commonwealth of Kentucky