Monday, July 15, 2013

Governor McDonnell outlines process for restoring voting rights to felons

Today Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced how the process for restoring voting rights to non-violent felons will work.

McDonnell said, “Starting today, those who have served their time, paid all fines, costs, and restitution and met other court-ordered conditions, will be able to regain their voting and civil rights as quickly as possible through a process that is automatic and individualized.  I want to applaud the great work of the stakeholder working group whose ideas helped us develop this new process, as well as the affected state and local agencies who have worked hard over the last 45 days to implement the new system.  Through this system, those presently being released from incarceration or probation, who qualify, will have their civil rights automatically restored.  For past offenders, our goal is to grant civil rights back to as many as possible through the end of this administration.  This is the right thing to do for all Virginians to help make the Commonwealth a safer and better place.”

Criteria for Automatic Restoration of Rights

(Announced May 29th)

  • Have been convicted of a non-violent felony in a Virginia court, or in a U.S. District Court, military court or a court of another state or territory;
  • Have completed serving the prison sentence and been released from probation or parole, and;
  • And, have paid all court costs, fines to the Commonwealth and restitution to the victims, satisfied other court-ordered conditions, and have no pending felony charges. 

General Process for Automatic Restoration of Rights effective July 15th

  • Over the past 45 days, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office (SOC) has met with stakeholder groups to get their input and recommendations.  Many of their recommendations were implemented through this new process including:
  1. Ways to connect with past felons who have been out of the legal system for years or decades.
  • A contact form is currently on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.  The form can be mailed to: Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Restoration of Rights Division, P.O. Box 2454, Richmond, VA 23218 or faxed to (804) 786-9549.   Forms will be made available at probation and parole offices as well.
  • A web-based form that will allow for direct submission online will be available by August 1st.   It will be available at:www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/ror
  • A toll free number (1-855-575-9177) is also available for people who do not have access to a computer or would prefer to call and provide the information necessary to ensure the criteria is met.
  1. Keeping the majority of statutory burglary and breaking and entering offenses as non-violent crimes eligible for automatic restoration of rights.  More serious types of statutory burglary and breaking and entering such as those with the intent to commit serious bodily harm or entering with a deadly weapon will be moved to the violent offenses list.
  2. Redirecting resources targeted at state agencies who conduct criminal background checks, and other suggestions for reducing bottlenecks in the process.
  3. Upgrading technology at the State Board of Elections to prevent manual data entry and allow for electronic updates each week (to be funded and completed soon).
  4. Implementing an advertising and outreach component that will be conducted with the assistance of the stakeholders.
  5. Working with clerks of court to ensure that any information needed from them is produced in a timely manner.
  • Due to the increase in requests that the SOC is anticipating, staff will be processing requests just as quickly as possible. SOC has added 4 additional staff and has worked to streamline business processes in preparation for the increased volume of requests. Some limited additional resources have been designated to other state agencies who assist with the ROR process.
  • Individuals must receive their rights restoration order from the Governor before they submit a voter registration application. Individuals who have their rights restored should still register to vote, as non-felon citizens are required to do.
  • SOC will be sending names of those who have had their rights restored on a weekly basis to State Board of Elections.
  • Additional Information, including the Contact Form and  FAQ’s on the new process can be found at:  www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/ror 

Pending/Present Offenders:

  • For those non-violent offenders who submitted an application prior to or right after the May 29th announcement, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office is working on processing these requests as quickly as possible.
  • For those non-violent offenders whose prior application had been denied or deemed ineligible during the McDonnell Administration, Restoration of Rights staff has completed their inventory of those files, and for those who are now eligible, they are working to process those request as quickly as possible.
  • These felons do not need to provide the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office any additional information unless they are contacted by the office for clarification. 

Past Non-Violent Offenders Whose Rights Have Not Been Restored:

  • Virginia does not have an accurate, comprehensive list of all the non-violent felons who are no longer in the legal or corrections system and where they are located – therefore, we have established a mechanism by which individuals can contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.
  • For those who have had non-violent felony convictions in the past, they can contact the Secretary’s Office by one of three ways:
    • Contact Form (available online): An individual can fill out this form and mail it in to the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  The contact form has basic information that staff needs to move forward with their request
    • Hotline (1-855-575-9177): Restoration of Rights staff will be able to take down the information needed to move forward with their request
    • Web Portal (www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/ror): The web portal will be active by August 1st.  Individuals can submit online the information needed to move forward with their request. 

Process for Future Individuals Released from Incarceration:

  • These are individuals who are either being released from incarceration under Department of Corrections or being released from supervised probation under Department of Corrections.
  • Beginning with May 2013, the Department of Corrections will identify offenders who are to be released that month as indicated above and who may qualify for automatic rights restoration based on the Governor’s criteria.
  • After ensuring the criteria have been met, SOC will process individual grant orders to either the last known address or the home plan address.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Crime, Politics, State Politics

Tags: , , ,

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