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Kentucky voters say ‘yes’ to crime victims rights, ‘no’ to longer terms for judges; final count due Friday

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

There were two proposed Constitutional amendments on the ballot during the general election, and although not all the votes have been counted, one is passing easily, while the other is heading to defeat.

It was a successful second time around for a victims’ rights amendment, commonly called Marsy’s Law, which is named after a California murder victim whose mother was horrified to see her daughter’s accused killer in a grocery store a week after his arrest. Her brother, Henry Nicholas, has since crusaded to have the protections enacted by state legislatures nationwide.

Voters said yes to crime rights and no to extending district judge’s tenures. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

Similar legislation was approved by Kentucky lawmakers in 2018 and won approval, with nearly 63% of the vote. However, in 2019 the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously threw out the results, saying the form of the amendment that was published and submitted to the electorate for a vote was not the full text, and was instead a question. So, the proposed amendment was voided.

Amendment #1, as it appeared on the ballot, has just over 63%, as of Tuesday night.

“Today is truly a landmark day for Kentucky crime victims,” said Emily Bonistall Postel, Marsy’s Law for Kentucky director of outreach. “Amid a year of much uncertainty, voters sent a clear and powerful message: Kentuckians whose lives are impacted by crime deserve our support and to have their rights protected in our constitution. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our vast, statewide army of Marsy’s Law advocates, survivors in all 120 counties will no longer have to feel alone, insignificant, or shut out of the very system they are counting on to carry out justice.”

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the primary source, said it was a victory for the commonwealth.

“Marsy’s Law for Kentucky will correct the troubling imbalance our current justice system allows — finally giving victims constitutionally protected rights equal to those of the accused and convicted,” he said. “Countless elected officials, community leaders, and advocates across the commonwealth have fought for years to ensure that crime victims are given the voice and dignity they deserve, and today that worthy goal has become a reality.”

The other measure, on the ballot as Amendment #2 is not faring as well, according to election night returns.

It would extend the term of Commonwealth’s Attorneys from six years to eight years beginning in 2030, change the terms of district court judges from four to eight years starting in 2022, and requiring district judges to have been licensed attorneys for at least eight years beginning in 2022.

It was failing by a 69-31% margin on election night.

Again, final vote tabulations are not due from county clerks to the State Board of Elections until Friday.

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