Louisville voting rights advocate regains right to vote after Beshear pardon

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:05 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A Louisville criminal justice advocate who set out to ask Governor Andy Beshear for a second chance earlier this year has finally received his reply.

Beshear granted Savvy Shabazz a pardon Thursday.

Shabazz said he’s not only turned his life around, but has devoted it to helping others. The pardon process started in January when Shabazz submitted an application including his transcripts from JCTC and UofL, a proclamation from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and references.

He was released from Dismas Charities in 2011, living as a convict with five drug related felonies on active parole.

Since then, Shabazz has earned an education, gained work experience and became an advocate for criminal justice reform and voting rights among other issues.

Until this week, Shabazz’s parole status had made him ineligible to vote since 2002.

A friend of his noted how peculiar his situation was.

“She looked at me and she said it’s just something about someone that’s getting everybody else out to vote and they can’t vote,” Shabazz said. “So, it’s bigger than just me and my situation not being able to vote. It’s about everybody being able to get to the polls.”

Tuesday, Shabazz got a call from a member of the Beshear administration, who was digging deeper into his application questioning his past, but also his goals for the future.

“It humbled me down a lot to think about a lot of people such as my mom and my sister and immediate family and some of the hurt, some of the grief they dealt with me,” Shabazz said.

The caller told him he’d next have another interview with more people involved. So, he started preparing as if it were for a job.

Thursday, his phone rang again.

“I said ‘Hello?'” Shabazz said. “He said ‘How are you doing Savvy? This is Governor Andy Beshear.’ The look on my face. I was like, oh wow.”

Shabazz said Beshear asked him questions regarding his application and said he supported the work he’d done in the community.

“He said, ‘You know, I’m going to grant you a full pardon,'” Shabazz said of Beshear. “'I’m going to sign it right here with you on the phone.' I was just excited.”

For Shabazz, that means the ability to travel farther, do more at his job and cast a ballot instead of just encouraging others to do so.

“I feel free,” Shabazz said. “I currently feel free at the moment. Actually, I’m not even sure if it’s set in and hit me yet.”

Shabazz said it was tough not being able to vote in the most recent election, but he still worked to help others cast their ballots.

He plans on helping others navigate the pardon system in the future.

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