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Yvonne Kennedy, 67, Alabama House member fought to extend voting to former inmates

Yvonne Kennedy

Yvonne Kennedy

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:45AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — State Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, a Mobile lawmaker and former president of Bishop State Community College, died Saturday after a brief illness. She was 67.

House of Representatives spokesman Clay Redden said Kennedy, a Democrat, died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. The cause of her death was not immediately known, though Kennedy had sought medical testing.

First elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1979, Kennedy was among its longer-serving members. She was a former chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus.

During her career, Kennedy joined protests against Alabama’s voter ID law and a measure aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants. She urged Alabama’s leaders to support an extension of the federal Voting Rights Act and also pushed to extend voting rights to people convicted of crimes.

The Alabama Legislature in 1996 passed a law that allowed ex-felons the right to vote if they were convicted of crimes that did not involve moral turpitude. In 2003, the Legislature went farther, passing a Kennedy-sponsored bill that set up a process to restore the rights of ex-felons convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.

At the time, Kennedy said her legislation would end a system that punished convicts even after they served their sentence.

“This is a humanitarian deal,” she said. “We are trying to bring our state back to the level where every individual is valued and is judged the same.”

Kennedy served as the president of Bishop State Community College beginning in 1981, but she was pushed from the post in July 2007. She departed while the school was in the middle of a criminal investigation in which more than two dozen people were charged with stealing about $200,000, mostly in financial aid.

Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican who served with Kennedy on the House Education Appropriations Committee, said she served her district well.

“She will be greatly missed,” Bentley said in a statement. Under state law, Bentley must order a special election to fill the vacancy created by her death.


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