McDonnell administration updates ongoing voter-restoration efforts
At a recent meeting with the Advancement Project, Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly announced that her office committed additional staff and resources earlier this year to ensure the efficient processing of voting rights restoration applications.
Secretary Kelly also reiterated that her office is continuing to process completed applications in time for the Oct. 15, 2012 voter registration deadline. Complete applications that were received by August 15 will receive priority. These updates reflect Gov. Bob McDonnell’s commitment to ensuring the fastest and fairest system for the restoration of voting rights in Virginia history.
While previous gubernatorial administrations had often taken a year or longer to review applications, Gov. McDonnell set a new, quicker standard upon taking office in 2010. In May of that year the Governor announced that his administration would make decisions in 60 days on all complete restoration of rights applications. That announcement means the McDonnell administration has set the fastest standard for the processing of complete voting rights restoration applications in Virginia history.
Other community groups involved in the restoration of rights process were also present at the recent meeting, including Bridging the Gap in Virginia, Resources and Information for Helping the Disadvantaged (RIHD), and Secure Organization Building Educational Recovery (SOBER), Inc.
“Gov. McDonnell believes in second chances and redemption. Once citizens have paid their debt to society, paid restitution to any victims and shown that they are once again working to become productive citizens they should be given the opportunity to again fully participate in our democracy,” said Secretary Kelly. “Gaining the right to vote discourages recidivism, encourages community involvement and restores the opportunity to have a vested interest in our government.”
“The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of our great democracy,” says Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “We applaud the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring that Virginians who have paid their debts to society are able to participate in the democratic process this November.”
McDonnell is restoring voting rights to individuals at a faster rate than any governor in the history of the Commonwealth. The state has approved 3,633 applications to-date, including 90 percent of those received from nonviolent offenders and 80 percent received from people convicted of violent offenses. An estimated 350,000 Virginians have lost their right to vote due to past felony convictions. These Virginians will be unable to vote until they apply to have their rights restored.
Those who wish to apply to have their rights restored can find information and applications at www.commonwealth.virginia.gov.
Edgardo Cortés, director of the Virginia Voting Rights Restoration Campaign, explained, “Many people who have lost their voting rights have been discouraged from applying in the past because of the small likelihood of success, but the high application approval rates announced by the Secretary of the Commonwealth today show the governor’s commitment to this issue, gives applicants hope, and will encourage others to apply.”
The Advancement Project and the governor look forward to continuing to work together on the restoration of rights issue.