A bill to begin the process of amending Virginia’s constitution to allow non-violent felons to have their voting rights restored was killed in the General Assembly last week. The bill’s sound defeat — passed by in a House of Delegates subcommittee Monday by a 6-to-1 vote — came even after it had the backing of two law-and-order conservatives, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. A constitutional amendment requires approval by two separate legislative sessions before it can be put before voters in a statewide referendum. Unless other lawmakers step in to overturn the subcommittee’s decision, Virginia will continue to lead the nation in stripping people of the right to vote.
More than 451,000 people can’t vote in Virginia on account of being a convicted felon. That’s 7.3 percent of the state’s voting age population of 6.14 million — one of the highest rates in the country. According to a new report from the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group that pushes for voter restoration, Virginia trails only four states — Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky — in the proportion of people disenfranchised, based on 2010 numbers.
The state constitution’s current language bars convicted felons from voting, forcing them to apply to the governor to get those rights restored. The legislation, sponsored by Del. Charniele L. Herring, D-Alexandria, with an identical bill sponsored by Del. Peter F. Farrell, R-Richmond, would have been the first step in amending the constitution to allow lawmakers to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have served their sentences.
Full Article: Crime & Legal Issues Notebook – dailypress.com.