When Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to more than 200,000 state citizens with felony convictions in April, he opened the door — much to the dismay of state Republicans — to a influx of likely Democratic voters in a state whose recent presidential elections have been decided by razor-thin margins. So far, however, very few of those potential voters have taken the first step toward actually showing up in November. As of June 30, only 8,170 of the newly eligible Virginians have registered to vote, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. For many, the gap between eligible voters and registered voters is distressing, particularly given the struggle waged over ex-offenders’ right to vote. McAuliffe’s order restored voting rights to felons who have completed their incarceration, parole or probation and paid all court-related fees and restitution. Virginia felons had long ago lost their right to vote permanently — one of few states in the country to use so harsh of a penalty — until former Gov. Bob McDonnell began lifting these restrictions in 2013 (though felons still had to apply individually for a rights restoration).
McAuliffe touted his order as the restoration of democratic rights, while his critics viewed his motives more cynically. McAuliffe is a long-time ally of Hillary Clinton, and Republicans accused the Democratic governor of using the order to up the number of Democratic-leaning voters on the state rolls ahead of the swing-state showdown between Clinton and Donald Trump in November.
If the newly enfranchised Virginians do begin signing up in large numbers, it’s likely to be a boon for Clinton in a critical state because considerable evidence exists that ex-offenders lean toward Democrats. A study from the American Sociological Review found that “because felons are drawn disproportionately from the ranks of racial minorities and the poor,” they tend to vote Democratic upon leaving prison. In Virginia, African-Americans — a strong Democratic constituency — make up more than half the prison population, according to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.
And in Virginia, even a small edge can matter. A RealClearPolitics polling average found Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by 4 percentage points. In 2012, then-Sen. Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by only 115,910 votes in Virginia, about half of the 232,317 votes by which he beat Arizona Sen. John McCain there in 2008.
Full Article: Few ex-felons registering to vote in Virginia – POLITICO.