Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) voiced his disappointment Jan. 14 when a House subcommittee killed proposals to automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society. “I am very disappointed in today’s vote against these constitutional amendments. Once individuals have served their time and paid their fines, restitution and other costs, they should have the opportunity to rejoin society as fully contributing members,” McDonnell said. True to his 2009 campaign promise to restore more voting rights to convicted felons than his Democratic predecessor Tim Kaine — who set a record at 4,402 —McDonnell has already surpassed that mark, with 10 months left to go in office.
In 2010, shortly after assuming the commonwealth’s top spot, McDonnell reduced the number of years non-violent felons had to wait after completing their sentence before applying to have their right to vote restored, from three years to two years. He also streamlined a petition process that often was taking more than a year to get answered, down to 60 days.
“This is an issue of justice to him,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly. “When he was a private attorney, he would occasionally get requests from clients to help them with the petition process. Back then it often took 18 months to get an answer, and it was usually, ‘No.’”
On Jan. 14, the constitutional amendments subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee–made up of five Republicans and two Democrats–voted down House Joint Resolution 535, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Del. Charniele Herring, (D-Alexandria) that would have automatically restored the civil rights of felons who have completed their prison terms. The subcommittee voted to “pass the amendment by indefinitely” which suggests that it will not come back up during this legislative session.
Full Article: FairfaxTimes.com: House votes down voting rights amendment.