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.
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.