Gov. Bob McDonnell expedited the restoration of voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has built on the precedent. The state Senate has taken the next step. The chamber has given first approval to a proposed constitutional amendment to make restoration automatic. Nonviolent felons would not need to apply for it. Section 1 of Article II in the Virginia Constitution describes qualifications of voters. The amendment adds the italicized language to the text: “In elections by the people, the qualifications of voters shall be as follows: Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States, shall be eighteen years of age, shall fulfill the residence requirements set forth in this section, and shall be registered to vote pursuant to this article. No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.Full Article: Restoration of voting rights ought to be automatic - Richmond.com: OUR OPINION.
The Virginia Board of Elections is under fire for alleged racial gerrymandering during a 2011 voter redistricting plan for the House of Delegates. In a lawsuit filed in the Richmond, Va. Federal Court, a dozen voters say the committee violated electoral rights by packing black voters into fragmented and irregularly shaped district lines — targeting a 55 percent threshold and significantly decreasing compactness in these areas. “As a result, African-American voters were illegally packed into the Challenged Districts, thereby diminishing their influence in the surrounding districts,” the complaint says. “The General Assembly adopted the 55% racial threshold without justification, including any determination that the threshold was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression in each of the Challenged Districts or otherwise comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”Full Article: Courthouse News Service.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to announce 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 plans 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.Full Article: Felons to get faster voting process - Richmond.com: Home.
Republican legislators who lead the General Assembly face an unusual prospect as they redraw the state’s congressional map to comply with a court order. For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a Democratic governor must sign off on legislators’ plan to redraw congressional district boundaries. That means Gov. Terry McAuliffe could hold out for a more competitive map than the current configuration in which Republicans hold eight of the state’s 11 U.S. House seats. “The Republicans, I think, are really in a bit of a bind,” said Bob Holsworth, a veteran political analyst who headed then-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bipartisan redistricting panel in 2011. McDonnell did not push for the panel’s recommendations, which the legislature ignored. In 2012 McDonnell signed off on a plan written by General Assembly Republicans.Full Article: Congressional redistricting could give governor leverage - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia News.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that his administration has restored the voting rights of more than 2,500 non-violent felons who have served their time.
“Virginians who have served their time deserve a second chance to become productive members of society again,” said McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am proud of the reforms my administration has undertaken to expand and expedite the rights restoration process and the work my team has done restoring Virginians’ voting rights so former offenders can lead successful, productive lives here in the commonwealth,” he said.
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.Full Article: McAuliffe to speed rights restoration - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia News.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to announce 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 plans 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.Full Article: McAuliffe to speed rights restoration - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia News.
Many federal lawmakers are echoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s call to restore voting rights to felons in Virginia. In a couple states felons can vote while in prison. In many right after they leave the gates their voting rights are restored. Not in Virginia. The commonwealth is one of just a handful of states that doesn’t restore voting rights upon being released from prison or completing probation or parole, which Attorney General Holder says is unjust. “I call upon state leaders and other elected officials across this country to pass clear and consistent reforms to restore the voting rights of all who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation and paid their fines.” Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine remembers fighting to change Virginia’s law while in Richmond. “As governor, I, Mark Warner first and then me and then Bob McDonnell, we really tried to dramatically escalate the re-enfranchisement of folks, because I think we’ve all come to the realization that the sort of automatic disenfranchisement for a felony…is a bad rule.”Full Article: Felon Voting Rights Still a Work In Progress | WVTF.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe remains silent on whether he will automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons. After two house bills (HB 7 and HB 556 ) that would have implemented automatic restoration of rights were killed Monday, the governor remains the only authority able to restore voting rights to felons under current law. Despite campaign promises, McAuliffe has made no formal announcement about whether or not he will continue the automated process that former Gov. Bob McDonnell set up in the final months of his administration. The restoration of rights webpage on the governor’s website hasn’t been updated since McAuliffe took office, and the hotline goes unanswered. Advocates remain hopeful despite the governor’s silence.Full Article: McAuliffe silent on restoration of VA felons' voting rights « Watchdog.org.
As attorneys and judges in Richmond carved out the ground rules for the statewide recount in the attorney general race last week, Spooner Hull logged more than 2,000 miles on Virginia roads in five days to make sure that the voting equipment will be ready to process tens of thousands of ballots in the coming days. Hull, 67, is a state-certified vendor who sells and services voting machines in 40 localities statewide. He has worked for decades in the background, doing his part to protect the integrity of the electoral system and allow democracy to run its course, unhindered by technical errors that could cause dramatic shifts in Virginia’s political landscape. “Here in Virginia, we have a very good election system, and it works,” said Hull, who bought his company, Atlantic Election Services Inc., from his father 33 years ago. Since then, he has serviced countless local elections and every presidential and state election — including two previous statewide recounts. His years in the business have strengthened his faith in the state’s electoral system. “I can assure you when any state in this country undertakes a rewrite of their election law, they will come to Virginia and look at our code and how we do things,” Hull said.Full Article: Meet the man behind the voting machines - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Government And Politics.
Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday called speculation about a General Assembly contest in the attorney general race before the conclusion of the pending recount “premature,” adding that he has yet to see evidence that would call for resolving the race in the legislature. “To get to that level where you essentially have the legislature make a decision as to who the winner is, there would have to be evidence that the credibility of the election was called into question in some way that created a lack of confidence among the citizens,” McDonnell said in a radio interview with WNIS Norfolk. “I think we are a long way away from that.” Republican Mark D. Obenshain initiated the recount in what is considered the closest race in modern Virginia history after a final statewide tally had him trailing Democrat Mark R. Herring by just 165 votes — a margin of 0.007 percent of 2.2 million votes cast. Obenshain has not said whether he is considering contesting the election in the General Assembly if the recount does not sway the result in his favor, but his legal team has dropped several hints. And on Monday, Obenshain’s attorney William H. Hurd for the first time openly raised this issue before the recount court in Richmond.Full Article: McDonnell says talk of contest in AG race may be premature - Waynesboro News Virginian: Virginia Politics.
Virginia: Alexandria to Hand Count All Paper Ballots in Recount For Attorney General | Connection Newspapers
Alexandria election officials will be going back to the future in the next few weeks, pouring over thousands of paper ballots by hand as part of a recount effort in the hotly contested race for attorney general. Although other jurisdictions with paper ballots will be reprogramming their scanners for the recount, election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines currently in use in Alexandria and Charlottesville have some key limitations that prevent them from being reprogrammed. “It’s not like that would happen in a split second by feeding them through the machine,” said Deputy Registrar Anna Lieder. “So we are prepared to do a hand count if that’s what’s required.” Election officials say the Hart InterCivic machines have two problems that would lead to a hand recount of all paper ballots. One is that the scanners must be able to conduct a recount for the race in question without also doing a recount for all the other races on the ballot, one of the limitations of the brand purchased by city officials. Another problem is that the scanners must be able to separate ballots where the voter has written in a name and under vote ballots, where no vote was registered for the attorney general race. Election officials say the stack of undervote ballots are likely to include a number of ballots where a voter may have written the name of a candidate or marked it in a way that was not picked up by the electronic scanner. “All these scanning devices have benefits and drawbacks,” said Lieder. “These are much more precise and easier to mark in the initial voting process.”Full Article: Alexandria to Hand Count All Paper Ballots in Recount For Attorney General.
Virginia: Election official questions Attorney General tally, Republican has hope in recount | Examiner
A law championed by Democrat Creigh Deeds could give Republican Mark Obenshain the tools to erase Mark Herring’s 165-vote margin in Virgina’s attorney general’s race, Watchdog.org reported. Deeds, who lost the AG contest to Bob McDonnell in 2005 by 360 votes, subsequently authored legislation requiring all optical scan ballots be re-run in the event of a recount, and that ballots containing write-in votes, undervotes or overvotes be hand-counted. In 2005, the ballots were only re-run in precincts that had identified problems. “This is new territory for Virginia and a margin well within the range in which recounts have changed the vote lead,” Obenshain spokesman Paul Logan said.Full Article: Virginia election official questions AG tally, Republican has hope in recount - Washington DC News | Examiner.com.
Virginia: Advocates: Court-imposed debt an obstacle for some felons seeking to restore voting rights | Washington Post
Advocates for restoring the voting rights of Virginia felons are praising the steps Gov. Bob McDonnell has taken to streamline the process but say a major impediment remains: insurmountable fines and court costs. McDonnell’s administration has restored the voting rights of more than 6,800 Virginians, more than any previous administration. In July, he announced a new procedure that eliminated a two-year waiting period and made restoration almost automatic for nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and probation and paid all court-imposed debt. But for disenfranchised Virginians like Clyde Mowyer of Colonial Heights, the financial hurdle means his chance of regaining the right to vote is no greater now than it was before McDonnell reformed the process. Mowyer, who was convicted of credit card theft and multiple driving violations, estimated that he owes nearly $20,000 to multiple jurisdictions — a debt he will never be able to repay on his monthly disability income of $639. “After paying for utilities and a place to stay, I have $59 left to live on,” Mowyer said. “There’s no possible way I can pay anything. I appreciate what the governor did in trying to make an automatic restoration process, but it doesn’t help people that are disabled.”Full Article: Advocates: Court-imposed debt an obstacle for some Va. felons seeking to restore voting rights
At about the same time last week that Gov. Bob McDonnell was restoring the rights of felons to vote, the State Board of Elections was removing voters from local voting lists across the state. The odor of politics is much stronger in the actions taken by the elections board. With respect to the general elections coming up in two weeks, the timing couldn’t be worse. McDonnell said last week that the civil rights of more than 6,800 Virginians have been restored during his tenure, including 1,577 since July 15 when he began automatically restoring rights for non-violent felons on an individual basis. Administration officials were said to be scrambling in recent weeks to restore rights to as many non-violent felons as possible before last week’s deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 elections.Full Article: Subtracting and Adding to the Voter Rolls - NewsAdvance.com : Editorials.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that the civil rights of 6,874 Virginians have been restored during his tenure, 1,577 since July 15, when he began automatically restoring rights for nonviolent felons on an individual basis. “I strongly believe in second chances and redemption. It is a fundamental part of the American way,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Our efforts on prisoner re-entry and the restoration of rights are working. When an individual has done their time, and paid their fines, costs, and other obligations, they deserve the opportunity to rejoin our democracy in full.” McDonnell announced in May that beginning July 15 he would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis.Full Article: McDonnell says state has restored rights of record 6,800 felons - Richmond Times-Dispatch: Latest News.
Virginia elections officials say they have already purged nearly 40,000 names from the voter rolls, despite an ongoing lawsuit filed by Democrats seeking to keep those voters registered. The Democratic Party of Virginia filed suit in federal court earlier this month over plans to purge as many as 57,923 names ahead of November’s gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli. State officials pushed for the purge based on evidence from a multistate database that the voters had subsequently registered in other states. Democrats say the list is riddled with errors. Democrats are seeking an injunction that would order the purged voters restored to the rolls. A U.S. District Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments Friday.Full Article: Va. kicks 40K off voter rolls over Dems' objection | The News Leader | newsleader.com.
In the wake of a lawsuit filed by Democrats over the purging of names from Virginia voter registries, a Loudoun County registrar has been ordered to purge names from her county’s list by the end of the week. Virginia Democrats filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, accusing them of purging — possibly in error — thousands of voters from registration lists. The Democratic Party of Virginia is accusing election officials, including Cuccinelli, of pressing forward with a plan to potentially purge up to 57,000 registered voters because an interstate database shows them registered in multiple states. The voter list was sent out from the State Board of Elections in late August, developed using a data exchange with some other states. The 57,000 names are those of voters who are registered in more than one state. Fairfax County immediately started to purge based on the list, and of the 7,934 names they were given, 7,106 were purged.Full Article: Dems Sue Gov., Cuccinelli; Claim Voter-Roll Purge | NBC4 Washington.
Some 350,000 convicted nonviolent felons became eligible to have their civil rights restored on July 15. Two months later, only a small fraction of those eligible know about the policy. Even fewer have applied. Gov. Bob McDonnell issued an executive order that eliminated a two-year waiting period before an application could be filed to restore rights. Now, a nonviolent felon who has completed all court-ordered conditions can apply and be automatically approved. What this means is that eligible individuals need only register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth via mail, email or phone to have their rights to vote, serve on a jury and work as a notary public restored. Organizations that are spreading the word about the change say that reaching those who are eligible is easier said than done. “Virginia only has the names of people currently incarcerated, but not those who have been released. They don’t know where these people are,” said Ladelle McWhorter of Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan grass-roots group. “The thing that [the governor’s office needs] is for people to come forward.”Full Article: Felons slow to seek restoration of rights | The News Desk.
If all goes according to plan, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration projects that over six months, it can restore voting rights to one in 10 eligible people who lost them to nonviolent felony convictions. That bold undertaking, which could benefit 10,000 of an estimated 100,000 nonviolent felons who’ve completed their terms, is not without its challenges, though. Chief among them is locating scores of Virginians who forfeited their rights to vote, a task complicated by a system of spotty electronic state records that go back only to 1995. Because there is no comprehensive database, the state is counting on partner advocacy groups to help route people to them.Full Article: Up to 10,000 eligible felons may get voting rights back | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com.