Wednesday, May 29, 2013

McDonnell announces automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons

Former Marine and Executive Director of H.A.R.P, Mercedies A. Harris speaking with Governor McDonnell after announcement that his rights would be restored.

Former Marine and Executive Director of H.A.R.P, Mercedies A. Harris speaking with Governor McDonnell after announcement that his rights would be restored.
(Photos Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)

Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that he will automatically restore, on an individualized basis, civil rights to non-violent felons by July 15 for those who meet the following specific conditions: 1) completion of their sentence, probation or parole;  2) payment of all court costs, fines, restitution, and completion of court-ordered conditions, and 3) have no pending felony charges.  

The change eliminates the two year waiting period, application process, a Governor’s subjectivity and misdemeanor charges and convictions ill not longer be a factor for restoration.

The restoring of civil rights does not include the restoration of the right to possess or carry a firearm, which can still be done by application to the appropriate circuit court. Individuals with violent felony convictions are not affected by this change and will need to go through the application process for review as is currently the case.

Governor McDonnell stated, “I got my start in state public service in Virginia as a prosecutor. I strongly believe the foremost obligation of any government is to provide for the security and protection of its citizens. When someone commits a crime they must be justly punished.

“However, once these individuals have served their time and fully paid for the offenses they committed, they should be afforded a clear and fair opportunity to resume their lives as productive members of our society … they deserve a second chance to fully rejoin society and exercise their civil and constitutional rights.”

Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the national NAACP delivers remarks

Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the national NAACP delivers remarks.
(Photos Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)

“Virginia has made tremendous progress to prepare offenders to return to their communities after serving their time and to become productive members of their community.”

McDonnell said he will do as much as he can within the scope of his authority and existing Virginia law to get as many individuals their voting and other rights back as quickly as he possibly can.

He has asked the Secretary of the Commonwealth to meet with stakeholders over the next 45 days and develop the appropriate administrative procedures to transition to an automatic system.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly said, “I am pleased to work with stakeholder groups over the next 45 days to ensure a seamless transition from the current application process to the automatic process.”

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli remarked, “Many people in our communities have committed certain low-level, nonviolent offenses in the past, paid their restitution and debt to society, and have gone on to live law-abiding lives. We needed to simplify the process for those who want to regain their civil rights so they can return to full participation in society.”

“As Americans, we believe in second chances and we believe in the right to vote,” stated Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP.

Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) commented, “Restoring the right to vote for those who have lost it, many for decades … it finally gives a voice to thousands of disenfranchised Virginians. Expanding participation in our democracy benefits everyone in our great Commonwealth.”

Del. Greg Habeeb

Del. Greg Habeeb

Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) stated, “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. When that right is limited, then every other one of their rights is limited because everything flows from your right to participate in the democratic process. Once a person has paid his or her debt to society, it benefits them and our society to restore that fundamental right. I am proud to support the governor’s historic actions today that expand access to the democratic process for thousands of Virginians.”

Senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun & Fairfax) and candidate for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General said, “I have long supported amending Virginia’s constitution to allow for automatic restoration of voting rights. Unfortunately, Senator Mark Obenshain has repeatedly opposed this effort. His opposition to this, including during this past General Assembly session, shows he continues to line up with the far right-wing fringe as opposed to those looking to do what is best for all Virginians … As Attorney General, I will work with the next Governor to continue the process Governor McDonnell has begun.”

Terry McAuliffe Democratic nominee for governor called it an important step in the interest of justice for Virginians who have paid their debt to society. “I’ve supported replacing the application process because it’s a common sense way to make it easier for Virginians who were convicted of a non-violent offense to have their right to vote restored after they have paid their debt.”

“Unfortunately, some in the legislature, including then-Senator Ken Cuccinelli, blocked General Assembly progress on restoration of rights repeatedly. I’m pleased that Governor McDonnell has found a way to overcome their opposition to take a meaningful step forward on this bipartisan initiative. It’s the right thing to do,” said McAuliffe.

Additional information, including a listing of non-violent felonies, can be found on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website:

A copy of the Governor’s letter to Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly outlining his policy changes is available here

Democrat’s attack Cuccinelli’s felon rights record and flip-flop

Felon Rights Restoration Advisory Committee releases report

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Crime, Politics, State Politics

Tags: , , ,


No Comments

Comments are not moderated. Notify any abuse at put ABUSE in the subject and the offensive post.

Leave a Reply