Kentucky Gov. Beshear to restore voting rights to over 100,000 former felons

"They deserve to participate in our great democracy," the Democrat declared.

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By Dareh Gregorian

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced in his inaugural address Tuesday that he'll sign an executive order this week restoring voting rights to more than 100,000 people who've been convicted of felonies.

"My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches me forgiveness," Beshear said in a speech outside the state Capitol in Frankfort.

"That's why on Thursday I will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to over a hundred thousand men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now. They deserve to participate in our great democracy," the Democrat declared.

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"By taking this step, by restoring these voting rights, we declare that everyone counts in Kentucky. We all matter."

No other details were immediately available, but it appears Beshear is essentially reinstating an executive order signed in 2015 by his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, that was suspended by his father's successor, Republican Matt Bevin.

That order restored the right to vote and hold public office to more than 140,000 nonviolent felons who completed their sentences.

Andy Beshear, who had been the state's attorney general, defeated Bevin in an upset win last month.

Of the 50 states, only Kentucky and Iowa still deny the right to vote to anyone convicted of a felony, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has been advocating a constitutional amendment to restore those rights.

The Beshears are the first father and son duo to serve as governors in Kentucky history.

His inauguration ushers in an era of divided government. Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in the state Legislature. But in remarks after taking the oath, Beshear urged the state's leaders to resist the trend of political rancor and to reach across party lines.

"We also have the opportunity, no, I think it's the duty, to prove to this commonwealth and this country that we can still govern," he said. "Anger, insults, even hatred, have infiltrated the very sacred institutions of our government. And we see our neighbors viewing neighbors as the enemy ... But right here and right now, we have a moment in time, maybe a moment in history, to get this right."

Associated Press contributed.