Gov. Bob McDonnell today will announce that he is automatically restoring the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis. The sweeping administrative action – while not an instantaneous blanket restoration – is as far as the governor can go within current Virginia law, administration officials said. The change, effective July 15, removes the application process for nonviolent felons. Once the administration verifies a nonviolent felon has paid his debt to society, the governor will send the individual a letter restoring his rights.
The change means thousands of nonviolent felons in Virginia could get their voting rights back in time to vote in the November election. “We are on the as-soon-as-possible timeline,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly.
As of Tuesday, McDonnell had restored the civil rights of 4,843 felons, more than any other governor’s administration. But there are still about 350,000 disenfranchised people in the state who have completed their sentences, according to The Sentencing Project’s 2012 report, which used 2010 numbers.