Groups call on statewide candidates to back restoration of rights
The ACLU of Virginia, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, submitted letters to the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general asking that they commit to ending disenfranchisement in Virginia.
“Despite Governor McDonnell’s positive changes, hundreds of thousands of Virginians still cannot vote on November 5,” said Hope Amezquita, Staff Attorney and Legislative Counsel for the ACLU of Virginia. “This is unacceptable, and we call on the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general to commit to restoring the fundamental right to vote to the more than 300,000 disenfranchised Virginians.”
Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement law is a creature of the Jim Crow era, and it disproportionately impacts Virginia’s African American Community. More than twenty percent of Virginia’s African-American voting age population is disenfranchised—representing one of every five African-Americans.
“This statistic is the result of the unfair prejudices that permeate our criminal justice system,” said Amezquita. “Whoever wins in November will have the power to help ensure that Jim Crow has no place in 21st century Virginia.”
Virginia is one of only four states that continue to permanently disenfranchise their citizens. Under Virginia’s Constitution, individuals convicted of a felony are permanently barred from voting. But, the Constitution also grants the Governor the right to restore an individual’s voting rights. In the past four years, Governor McDonnell restored the rights of more persons than any previous governor and his Administration implemented a less burdensome process for certain non-violent felons to regain their rights. But, because of numerous hurdles and the exclusion of individuals convicted of certain offenses, the rate of re-enfranchisement in Virginia remains low despite the recent improvements, and more than 300,000 Virginians continue to be denied the right to vote.
Read the letter to candidates for Governor: Attorney General Cuccinelli, Mr. McAuliffe,Mr. Sarvis. Read the letter to candidates for Lieutenant Governor: Mr. Jackson,Senator Northam, Ms. Parker. Read the letter to candidates for Attorney General:Senator Herring, Senator Obenshain.