Gov. Robert F. McDonnell got his only standing ovation in last week’s State of the Commonwealth speech with an unexpected announcement: He would support automatically restoring voting rights to nonviolent felons who had paid their debts to society. But the Republican governor didn’t bring everyone in the audience to their feet. “Most of the people standing were Democrats,” said Del. Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg). A year after Republicans and Democrats fought bitterly over voter identification bills, Richmond seems ready to keep sparring over who casts a ballot and how.
Dozens of bills on the subject have been filed for the 45-day General Assembly session that began last week, with Republican-sponsored measures generally aimed at tightening voting procedures and Democratic-backed ones largely inclined on liberalizing them.
GOP-backed legislation intends to purge the voting rolls of felons, keep non-citizens out of the voting booth and make it a felony to solicit someone to vote illegally.