From the Washington Post: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will allow more than 200,000 ex-cons in Virginia to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election, one of the biggest actions taken by a state to instantly restore voting rights.
The change applies to all felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole. The Democratic governor’s decision particularly affects black residents of Virginia: 1 in 4 African Americans in the state has been permanently banned from voting because of laws restricting the rights of those with convictions.
“Once you have served your time and you’ve finished up your supervised parole. . .I want you back as a full citizen of the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “I want you to have a job. I want you paying taxes, and you can’t be a second-class citizen.”
The governor called the instant restoration of rights to these Virginians the natural next step to his incremental streamlining of a process that has already given 18,000 nonviolent felons their rights back. With the signing of Friday’s executive order, McAuliffe eliminated the need for an application for violent felons who had completed their sentences up to that moment.
The announcement Friday immediately drew criticism from Republicans who viewed McAuliffe’s action as a blatant favor to his longtime friend Hillary Clinton, for whom he and his wife recently raised $2 million at their McLean home.
“It is hard to describe how transparent the Governor’s motives are,” House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in a statement. “The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet.”
Along with restoring voting rights, the governor’s action restores the right to serve on a jury, run for office and become a notary public. The new rights also apply to felons convicted in another state and living in Virginia.
“It is a historic day for democracy in Virginia and across our nation,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority, a progressive activist group. “The disenfranchisement of people who have served their sentences was an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past.”
Across the country, state laws vary on the right to vote for ex-offenders. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, about 5.85 million Americans with felony convictions (and misdemeanors in several states) cannot vote. The Sentencing Project estimates that 1 in 13 African Americans are prohibited from voting.
Three states — Kentucky, Iowa and Florida — permanently revoke voting rights for people with prior felony convictions. Virginia has also been one of those states that revoked the right to vote. But in recent years, both McAuliffe and his Republican predecessor, Robert F. McDonnell, have used their executive authority to try to restore voting rights to ex-offenders.
Republicans were particularly outraged that the policy doesn’t take into account the violence of the crime, whether the person committed serial crimes, whether they’ve committed crimes since completing their sentence or whether they’ve paid their victims back for medical bills.
“Murder victims don’t get to sit on juries but now the man that killed them will,” said Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle), who is running for attorney general. “A murder victim won’t get to vote, but the man that killed them will.”
See the complete article at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/04/22/about-200000-convicted-felons-in-virginia-will-now-have-the-right-to-vote-in-november/
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