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ACLU sides with McAuliffe in restoration of voting rights lawsuit

aclu virginiaThe ACLU of Virginia has sided with Governor Terry McAuliffe in a lawsuit filed against him to try to block the recent restoration of voting rights to 206,000 individuals convicted of a felony.

In an amicus – or “friend-of-the-court” – brief filed today with the Supreme Court of Virginia, the ACLU-VA argues that the governor has the authority under the Virginia Constitution to restore voting rights to individuals convicted of a felony by executive order and that his April 22 action doing so properly recognizes the importance of rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have completed their sentences after having been convicted of a crime.

In addition, the brief states the governor’s order addresses disparities in how voter disenfranchisement affects African-Americans. Prior to the governor’s order, more than one in five black Virginians was disenfranchised, which is 11 times the national rate of disenfranchisement.

Finally, the ACLU-VA’s brief argues that the previous system for restoration – in which individuals were required to apply to the governor to regain their rights – “offered only a false promise” of rights restoration. “The system was fraught with practical barriers that made restoration unnecessarily burdensome,” according to the brief.

“Voting is a fundamental right and the governor’s order restores this dignity to thousands of Virginians who have successfully reentered our communities,” said Hope R. Amezquita, Staff Attorney for the ACLU-VA.

Prior to the governor’s action, Virginia was one of just 12 states that disenfranchised its residents and one of only four that did so permanently unless an individual pleaded successfully with the governor.

The brief is accompanied by affidavits from three people who had their rights restored as a result of the governor’s order and now serve as real examples of the human impact of both disenfranchisement and rights restoration.  To read a copy of the brief and get more information visit –

Amicus briefs are often filed by individuals and organizations that are not direct parties to a lawsuit but who have unique perspectives and a strong interest in the outcome.