Hundreds of felons have rushed to register to vote in Richmond and Henrico County since Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the civil rights of 206,000 last week, but local registrars say the state hasn’t given them the information they need to approve applications. Richmond General Registrar J. Kirk Showalter said she had been able to verify just two of the 102 applications the office had received by Tuesday night, while Henrico Registrar Mark J. Coakley said his office was working through more than 200 online requests and setting aside those it had accepted in case of later questions about an ex-offender’s status. They and other registrars across Virginia say the state wasn’t ready to carry out McAuliffe’s sweeping executive order on Friday that restored voting and other civil rights. “This is the time when government went too fast,” Coakley said. But McAuliffe administration officials said they warned from the beginning that it would take time to update online state databases to show the restoration of rights for so many people. “This is a massive administrative undertaking, but it is the right thing to do,” spokesman Brian Coy said.
Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, said the main state voter database will be fully updated by the end of the week to show when a felon’s rights had been restored and reminded that the process could not begin until the governor signed the order.
“We were totally ready,” Cortes said. “If we had loaded these folks in before the governor did his order, they would have come off the (prohibited voter) list prematurely.”
Much of the confusion has arisen among registrars because they said they were not able to verify restoration of a felon’s voting rights either on the Virginia Election Registration Information System, VERIS, or a searchable online site operated by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, to which they were directed after the governor issued his executive order.