- Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, & Virginia are the only US states whose constitutions permanently disenfranchise citizens with past felonies, BUT whose constitutions also give their governors the right to restore voting rights.
- In VA, restoration gained momentum in 2013 when Governor McDonnell restored voting rights for non-violent offenders, who had completed their sentences, had gone through a five-year waiting period, paid a fine, and made restitution. People were processed individually before being allowed to register to vote.
- In April 2014, current Governor Terry McAuliffe further expanded rights by signing an executive order broadening the scope of ex-felons eligible for restoration, by shortening the waiting period from five to three years and eliminating the case-by-case process. Subsequently, 13,000 of the eligible 200,000+ former felons applied and their rights were reestablished en masse (as a group) by the governor.
- BUT on July 22, 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court declared the Governor’s action unconstitutional, stating that while McAuliffe has the right to restore rights to felons, he does not have the right to do so en masse—that is, he can only do so on a case-by-case basis.
- BUT again on August 22, 2016, McAuliffe announced he has ordered restoration for the 13,000 who had already registered to vote prior to the Supreme Court order, and he has further ordered that these registrations be returned to the voting rolls.
What does that mean for those who wish to register to vote?
- If you have registered to vote because your rights were restored under the Governor’s original executive order, WAIT to receive a letter from the Governor saying that your individual rights have been restored.
- Once you receive the letter, GO to the registrar’s office to re-register before the October 17th deadline to be eligible to vote in the upcoming November election.
- If you have not yet registered to vote, MONITOR the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website (https://commonwealth.virginia.gov/judicial-system/restoration-of-rights/) for future information about determining whether your rights have been restored. You must follow the instructions on the website about how to confirm whether your rights have been restored before you attempt to register to vote.
Check Your Restoration Status
- Virginians are encouraged to check their restoration status online or call 804-692-0104 for status.
- Register to vote at http://www.elections.virginia.gov.
- If you encounter a problem or difficulty obtaining your restoration status or registering to vote, contact the ACLU of Virginia (804-644-8022).
Just thought you should know. ®
SOURCES: David A. Graham, “Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Once Again Tries to Restore Voting Rights for Felons,” theatlantic.com, 08/22/16. Kelly Thomasson, Secretary of the Commonwealth, “Restoration of Rights,” virginia.gov, 8/21/16. “Restoration of Rights in Virginia,” American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, acluva.org, 8/23/16. “Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Virginia,” Brennan Center for Justice, brennancenter.org, 8/1/16.