New program allows some under house arrest to vote

Upward of “dozens” of registered voters under house arrest are eligible to vote Tuesday, according to Metro Louisville’s top jailer.

Louisville Metro Corrections Department Director Mark Bolton has spearheaded a push to allow certain individuals under the city’s home incarceration program, or H.I.P., to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s elections. According to Bolton, there are 576 people enrolled in the program. He also said that some eligible offenders under the Community Corrections Center’s work-release program have already voted as well.

“To be honest, I didn’t want this [information] out there,” Bolton said, citing fears that the media would unfairly target offenders for exerting their constitutional rights. “Everybody who has taken the time to register to vote, that wants to vote, should be able to vote in confidence and exercise their constitutional right.”

Eligible voters include nonviolent offenders who haven’t been convicted of a felony and are under court-ordered release programs for work, school, medical or other types of qualified leave.

Bolton said he worked with the commander of H.I.P. to determine the feasibility of the initiative. After receiving the interest of the chief judges of Louisville’s Circuit and District courts, the Jefferson County Attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney both reviewed the idea and ultimately gave it their approval.

The initiative was approved last week after a pair of orders issued by the chief justices of Jefferson County’s Circuit and District Courts.

On Oct. 29, Chief Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards issued an order stating that “a onetime voting release shall be granted to individuals currently on H.I.P. on Jefferson Circuit Court cases,” but stipulates that the offender must be a registered, eligible voter and who “currently has other community releases.”

One day later, Chief District Court Judge Anne Haynie issued a similar order, but stipulating two hours’ time for eligible offenders to vote.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer supported the move in a statement provided to Insider Louisville.

“If someone is qualified to vote and wants to vote, and we can help facilitate that, I think that’s great,” Fischer said. “Voting is a right and responsibility, and I’m glad we can help make it happen.”

The move was also praised on social media by Sadiqa Reynolds, the president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League and former chief of Community Building under Fischer.

Bolton said that by next year, he wants to expand ballot access for some offenders who are in custody by allowing them to vote via an absentee ballot.

But the program doesn’t apply to felons, who are stripped from their franchise rights for life following their conviction. Kentucky is just one of three states that does not offer automatic restoration of voting rights for felons.