Some 350,000 convicted nonviolent felons became eligible to have their civil rights restored on July 15. Two months later, only a small fraction of those eligible know about the policy. Even fewer have applied. Gov. Bob McDonnell issued an executive order that eliminated a two-year waiting period before an application could be filed to restore rights. Now, a nonviolent felon who has completed all court-ordered conditions can apply and be automatically approved. What this means is that eligible individuals need only register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth via mail, email or phone to have their rights to vote, serve on a jury and work as a notary public restored. Organizations that are spreading the word about the change say that reaching those who are eligible is easier said than done. “Virginia only has the names of people currently incarcerated, but not those who have been released. They don’t know where these people are,” said Ladelle McWhorter of Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan grass-roots group. “The thing that [the governor’s office needs] is for people to come forward.”
The state does not have a single comprehensive list of eligible nonviolent felons. So there is no efficient way to notify individuals of the rights-restoration process.
Instead, Virginia Organizing and nearly a dozen other organizations have been hosting civil rights restoration workshops around the state to increase awareness.
McWhorter, who is vice chair of Virginia Organizing’s state governing board, said that the workshops outline how rights can be restored and assist eligible individuals in filling out the necessary paperwork.
Full Article: Felons slow to seek restoration of rights | The News Desk.