Less than a week after Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell endorsed it, a proposal to allow automatic restoration of voting rights to nonviolent felons was shot down today by a Republican-dominated House of Delegates subcommittee. Neither McDonnell’s support nor that of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was enough to salvage the measure, which has perennially gone down to defeat in the House. Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, the chief patron of McDonnell’s proposal, drew only one favorable vote from the subcommittee, from Del. Algie Howell, D-Norfolk.
The seven-member panel’s majority Republicans said they are satisfied with the current system, in which felons must petition the governor to get their voting rights restored after they are released from prison.
McDonnell, who has restored the rights of more felons than any other governor, said last week it is time to make the process automatic. Virginia is one of two states with the most restrictive policies in the country.
Supporters of automatic restoration of rights say 450,000 Virginians are disenfranchised under the current system.