RICHMOND - Governor Ralph Northam announced Tuesday the restoration of voting and other civil rights to more than 69,000 former felons in Virginia.
According to Northam's office, new eligibility criteria that mirrors a proposed change to the state's Constitution would immediately restore voting rights to more than 69,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians.
Currently, anyone convicted of a felony in the Commonwealth automatically loses their civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a public notary, and carry a firearm. The state Constitution gives the governor the sole power to restore most of those civil rights.
Previously, former felons had to finish serving "active supervision," including probation or parole, before they were eligible to have their rights restored by the governor.
Moving forward any Virginian released from incarceration will qualify to have their rights restored, even if they remain on community supervision.
With today’s announcement, Northam has now restored civil rights to more than 111,000 people since he took office.
“Too many of our laws were written during a time of open racism and discrimination, and they still bear the traces of inequity,” said Governor Northam. “We are a Commonwealth that believes in moving forward, not being tied down by the mistakes of our past. If we want people to return to our communities and participate in society, we must welcome them back fully—and this policy does just that.”
Governor Northam announced the news at OAR of Richmond, a community leader in reentry services.
His administration says he will visit other reentry service providers around Virginia soon to hear from returning citizens about their experiences, present them with their rights restoration documentation, and discuss the importance of the constitutional amendment that was passed by the General Assembly.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after Governor Ralph Northam announced he will restore the voting rights of 69,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians:
True leadership by @GovernorVA. I've said it before, men and women who have paid their debt to society deserve the right to rejoin our democracy. We can and should do this on a nationwide scale.https://t.co/Hx5aAiJ1wZ— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 16, 2021
Former Governor Terry McAullife released the following statement:
"Standing up against relentless Republican opposition and restoring voting rights to 173,000 Virginians is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life, but there remains much work to be done. We must fully enshrine the restoration of voting rights in our constitution, and as Virginia's next governor I pledge to work with the General Assembly and voters to complete this process during my first year in office. Together, we will create a stronger, more equitable justice system rooted in fairness, second chances, and redemption."
For more information on restoration of rights, click here..