Kentucky's new Republican governor has rescinded an executive order that restored voting rights to as many as 140,000 non-violent felons, surprising some observers who had watched him -- and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- argue for a more lenient approach to the issue.
"While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights,” Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Ky.) said in announcing the order, “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people."
The November election, which Bevin won in an upset, did not really turn on felon voting rights. In Bevin's view, outgoing Democratic governor Steve Beshear forced the issue, granting a mass restoration after eight years of following the usual, slow, individualized standard for voting rights.
But Bevin had kept his opinion of Beshear's order well-concealed. After Beshear issued it, Bevin's transition committee said that he would review the order but noted that "Governor-elect Bevin has said many times that the restoration of voting rights for certain offenders is the right thing to do."
That echoed what Bevin said during the campaign. In a September interview at a gun rights rally, Bevin confirmed his belief that the right to own a gun should be restored to nonviolent offenders.
"I feel the same way [about voting rights], I really do," Bevin said. "I do believe in second chances, and I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate that we would take from somebody something that could be restored to them, that the nation would be better to have them in possession of all their rights.”
That put Bevin in the same camp as Paul.
On Wednesday, Paul strategist Doug Stafford told The Washington Post through email that "Senator Paul supports the restoration of rights and has worked for it through the legislature," essentially agreeing with Bevin's approach.
"He understands Governor Bevin's point about executive authority and hopes to work with him to make it a priority in the next legislative session," wrote Stafford.