Felon voting rights remains an ongoing issue in Virginia. The League of Women Voters of Virginia has been very active in efforts to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences and returned to society.
The recent initiative by Gov. McAuliffe to grant voting rights to a large number of ex-offenders has raised a number of questions from Virginia Leaguers. Because this has now become mired in partisan politics, with one party threatening to bring a lawsuit challenging the governors' right to do this, some Leaguers have become concerned about taking an active role However the League's commitment to the principles involved in this action did not start with this initiative. LWVUS's position on voting reads as follows: "...voting is a fundamental citizen right that must be guaranteed." More specifically, embedded in "Positions for Action in Brief," the statement of LWV-VA's adoptedpositions, is the following:
The analysis reveals that the average time since release and completion of parole or probation is 11.1 years. The average age of this population is 45.9 years. Previous to his April 22nd order, Governor McAuliffe offered immediate restoration of rights to nonviolent felons and imposed a 3-year waiting period on any violent felons. According to this analysis, 93.4% of individuals covered by the April 22nd order would have been qualified before that date.
To read more of this report Click Here
"Throughout my administration my team and I have operated on a simple principle: Virginians who have served their time and reentered society should do so as full citizens of our Commonwealth and country," said Governor McAuliffe. "Too often in both our distant and recent history, politicians have used their authority to restrict peoples' ability to participate in our democracy. Today we are reversing that disturbing trend and restoring the rights of more than 200,000 of our fellow Virginians who work, raise families and pay taxes in every corner of our Commonwealth."
The Governor implemented his action by signing an order restoring the rights of every Virginia felon who completed his or her sentence and all other requirements as of April 22nd, 2016. The total number of Virginians impacted by the Governor's order today is 206,000. He also instructed the Secretary of the Commonwealth to prepare a similar order monthly in order to restore the rights of individuals who complete their sentences in the future. Click Here for more information.
[Ed. Note: "League and its coalition partners are studying ways to register these newly enfranchised Virginians"]
Under the new reform, outstanding court costs and fees will no longer prohibit an individual from having his or her rights restored. McAuliffe said, "These men and women will still be required to pay their costs and fees, but their court debts will no longer serve as a financial barrier to voting, just as poll taxes did for so any years in Virginia."
Additionally individuals who have their rights restored will now have the option to include a notation in their criminal record designating that their rights have been restored.
The complete press release statement is available at https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsartcile?articleld=11651
Revised application forms for the restoration of rights are available at https://commonwealth.virginia.gov/judicial-system/restoration-of-rights/
Previously on April 21st, 2014, McAuliffe moved all drug-related offenses into the non-violent category, reduced the waiting period for more serious offenders from five to three years and published a list of the offenses that require this waiting period. For less serious (non-violent) offenders there is no waiting period.
In December2014, he shortened the application for Serious Offenders from 13 pages to just one page and removed burdensome requirements such as notarization and letters to the governor.