Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list. The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly. In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe wants to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list. In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.
Last year, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell altered the system to automatically restore rights on an individualized basis once nonviolent felons served their time, paid fines and restitution and met other court-ordered conditions. Violent felons must currently wait five years after they serve their time and have paid court costs, fines and restitution.
McAuliffe plans to provide a list of the offenses that require a waiting period, collapse the time frame and remove drug crimes from that list, such as drug distribution and drug manufacturing. “Virginians who have made a mistake and paid their debt to society should have their voting rights restored through a process that is as transparent and responsive as possible,” McAuliffe said in a statement.