Gov. Bob McDonnell used this year’s State of the Commonwealth address to throw his support behind legislative efforts to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have paid their debt to society. Those measures to put a constitutional amendment before voters were stopped in a House of Delegates subcommittee during the General Assembly session. Two voting rights groups are now calling on McDonnell to issue an executive order restoring voting rights to all felons who have served their full sentences. McDonnell has streamlined the current process, where felons must petition the governor directly, and restored the rights of more than 4,400 felons – more than any of his predecessors.
Virginia is one of only four states – including Kentucky, Florida and Iowa – that does not have a process for the automatic restoration of voting rights of felons.
Edgardo Cortés, director of the Advancement Project’s Virginia Voting Rights Restoration Campaign, said “McDonnell has shown tremendous leadership on this issue.”
But with more than 350,000 Virginians who have been convicted of crimes and served their full sentences still unable to vote Cortés and Tram Nguyen of Virginia New Majority say its time for McDonnell to take matters into his own hands.
“His pleas to the General Assembly have unfortunately gone unheeded,” Nguyen said. “We hope that in this last year of his term he will use his authority as instilled upon him in the Constitution of Virginia to sign an executive order giving a second chance to people who have paid their debt to society.”