Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in the first two years of his term, has restored the voting rights of more than 2,500 ex-convicts — putting the former prosecutor and state attorney general on pace to eclipse both of his Democratic predecessors. Mr. McDonnell, who on the campaign trail promised to enact the “fastest and fairest” rights-restoration process in Virginia history, has been living up to his pledge. His office makes decisions on applications within 60 days and fully briefs prisoners on the requirements to apply.
“We know that almost 95 percent of the people that we send to prison are getting out,” the Republican governor said. “So if we don’t make at least part of what we’re aiming at: ‘What do we do with those people that get out?’ then we’re missing part of the law.” “We’re a nation of second chances,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes. But if you want to fix your problem and be a productive citizen, we want to help.”
Mr. McDonnell stumbled early in his administration when he floated the idea of allowing nonviolent felons to write letters explaining the circumstances related to their arrests and the steps they have taken toward rehabilitation. He pulled back on the widely criticized idea, but not before more than 200 notices were mistakenly mailed to felons directing them to write the letters.