House subcommittee defeats voting-rights restoration bills
A package of bills that had the support of General Assembly Democrats and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell was killed in a House of Delegates subcommittee Monday morning.
“The House Republicans’ actions speak louder than words, instead of finding common ground on an issue like the restoration of voting rights they are working to make it harder to vote while they think no one is watching,” said State Del. Charniele Herring.
“Keeping voting rights from people who have served their time and paid their debt to society is wrong, even Gov. Bob McDonnell says we should pass this legislation,” said Herring, who is also the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “The ability to vote is one of our inherent rights as Americans. Instead Republicans in the House are using it as part of their political agenda to block access to the ballot box.”
Also weighing in on the vote is U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a former Virginia governor.
“It is very disappointing that this bipartisan legislation has been blocked at the starting point of a two-year process that would allow Virginia voters to weigh in on a commonsense step already in place in virtually every other state,” said Warner, who as governor initiated a streamlined restoration of rights process that restored voting privileges to 3,486 nonviolent felons – more than all of his predecessors combined.
“Restoring voting privileges to people who have completed their sentences, paid their fines, made restitution and lived as law-abiding citizens is the right thing to do, and that’s why I made it a high priority when I served as governor. I encourage the Virginia Senate to move forward on its own versions of this legislation so that the House of Delegates will have another opportunity this year to consider this bipartisan approach to restoration of rights,” Warner said.
Updated: 12:04 p.m. Gov. Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning following a House subcommittee vote against proposed constitutional amendments that would provide for the automatic restoration of rights for individuals who have committed a non-violent felony but have served their full sentences and paid all fines and fees.
Gov. McDonnell announced his support for the legislation during the State of the Commonwealth address, and his Secretary of the Commonwealth, Janet Kelly, testified on behalf of the Administration in support of the measures at the hearing.
“I am very disappointed in today’s vote against these constitutional amendments. Once individuals have served their time, and paid their fines, restitution, and other costs, they should have the opportunity to rejoin society as fully contributing members. As a nation that embraces second chances and believes in redemption, we want more productive citizens and fewer people returning to prison. Automatic restoration of constitutional rights will help reintegrate individuals back into society and prevent future crimes, which means fewer victims and a safer Virginia.
“When I ran for Governor, I pledged to institute the fastest and fairest restoration of rights process in Virginia history. We have approved more applications for the restoration of rights than any prior administration. We are acting on completed applications in 60 days or less; far quicker than prior efforts. While it is a faster process, it is still an executive branch process. A person convicted of a non-violent offense, who has served their time, and paid all their fines and costs, should be able to then regain the right to vote and begin their life again as a fully engaged member of our democracy. A constitutional right deserves a constitutional amendment so that all applicants are treated equally across administrations.
“I believe strongly, as a matter of conscience, in protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens. And I believe that it is time for Virginia to join the overwhelming majority of states in eliminating our bureaucratic restoration process and creating a clear predictable constitutional and statutory process. I appreciate the support of Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for this measure. Our Administration will remain committed to seeing Virginia put in place an automatic restoration of rights process for non-violent felons. It is the right step to take.”