Governor Terry McAuliffe today restored the voting and civil rights of more than 200,000 Virginians who were convicted of felonies, served their time and completed any supervised release, parole or probation requirements. Each of those Virginians will immediately regain the right to register to vote, to run for office, to serve on a jury and to serve as a notary public.
“Throughout my administration my team and I have operated on a simple principle: Virginians who have served their time and reentered society should do so as full citizens of our Commonwealth and country,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Too often in both our distant and recent history, politicians have used their authority to restrict peoples’ ability to participate in our democracy. Today we are reversing that disturbing trend and restoring the rights of more than 200,000 of our fellow Virginians who work, raise families and pay taxes in every corner of our Commonwealth.”
The Governor implemented his action by signing an order restoring the rights of every Virginia felon who completed his or her sentence and all other requirements as of April 22nd, 2016. The total number of Virginians impacted by the Governor’s order today is 206,000. He also instructed the Secretary of the Commonwealth to prepare a similar order monthly in order to restore the rights of individuals who complete their sentences in the future.
Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia grants the Governor the authority to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” of a felony.
Previous to today’s action, the McAuliffe Administration restored the rights of more than 18,000 Virginians, which is more than the past 7 governors combined over their full four-year terms.
The Governor also worked to reform the restoration process by reducing the waiting period for more serious offenders from five years to three, classifying all drug-related convictions as non-violent, shortening the application for more serious offenders from 13 pages to one page, removing a requirement that individuals pay their court costs before they can have their rights restored, and ensuring that a notation will be included in an individual’s criminal record designating that his or her rights have been restored.
Governor McAuliffe added, “If we are going to build a stronger and more equal Virginia, we must break down barriers to participation in civic life for people who return to society seeking a second chance. We must welcome them back and offer the opportunity to build a better life by taking an active role in our democracy. I believe it is time to cast off Virginia’s troubling history of injustice and embrace an honest, clean process for restoring the rights of these men and women.”
Joining Governor McAuliffe at today’s announcement were Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, the Rev. Ben Campbell and Raja Johnson.
Dr. Campbell is the founder of Richmond Hill, an ecumenical Christian fellowship and residential community which actively seeks reconciliation in Richmond. He was named Richmond’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2013 by the Richmond Peace Education Center. Ms. Johnson is a single mother and resident of Richmond, Governor McAuliffe restored her rights in 2014. Ms. Johnson has since gone on to obtain a Medical Associates Degree.
For more information about the Governor’s order, frequently asked questions and the status of individual restoration of rights petitions, please visit: www.Commonwealth.Virginia/RoR.