Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney told a mixture of Charlottesville leaders and residents that it was watching his father bounce between jobs all his life that sparked his fight for reforming ex-felon rights restoration. Kicking off a multi-city tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Virginia Organizing and the Charlottesville Alliance for Black Male Achievement hosted Stoney in the city council chambers on Monday night to give a progress report on that fight and to field questions. Stoney, Virginia’s first African-American secretary of the commonwealth, recalled watching his father reel from “bad decisions” he’d made in the past when it came to the finding steady work.
As Stoney began working in politics, he told the crowd he would hear similar stories from people all over the state, prompting him to find pathways for reform of the state’s system. “I remember people like my dad … there’s everyday people who are affected by mistakes,” Stoney said.
Since taking office in January 2014, that reform has already taken shape. Already, serious offenders no longer have to wait five years after their release to apply for rights restoration. Under the current administration, that term has been lowered to three years, and Stoney said he hopes to reduce it even further. Drug offenders are now classified as nonviolent offenders rather than serious offenders, meaning they no longer have to wait before seeking rights restoration.