ACLU of Virginia asks governor to restore voting rights

aclu virginiaThe ACLU of Virginia has repeated its call on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to act now to restore the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Virginians.

In a letter sent to the governor on Monday, ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga urged him to issue an executive order immediately that would restore rights to all persons convicted of felonies who have completed their sentences or are released from parole.

“Now that the General Assembly is on the eve of adjourning once again without addressing this important issue, we renew our request that you issue an executive order immediately that restores in full the voting rights of the hundreds of thousands of Virginians still waiting for the renewed opportunity to exercise this fundamental,” Gastañaga said in the letter.

The ACLU-VA’s letter follows a similar call the organization issued to Gov. McAuliffe after his election in 2013 before he took office and to other governors in previous years.

Virginia is one of only four states to permanently disenfranchise its citizens convicted of a felony and has the second highest disenfranchisement rate in the nation. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Virginians are banned from voting for the rest of their lives.

African-Americans and other minorities are disproportionately impacted by the law. Currently, their voting rights can only be restored by a discretionary act of the Governor. While the ACLU-VA said the Governor’s efforts to date deserve high praise, an executive order could restore rights to all disenfranchised persons rather than requiring each one having to pursue restoration individually.

“You can legally issue such an order and doing so now, without further delay, will offer hope to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who cannot possibly hope to have their rights restored one by one before you leave office,” Gastañaga wrote. “Moreover, issuance of such an order will help catalyze efforts to gain legislative approval of a resolution to put this issue before the voters so that our constitution can be purged of this vestige of Jim Crow.”

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