Senate subcommittee advances felon voting rights bill

constitutionThe Senate Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on Tuesday conformed constitutional amendments introduced by State Sens. Chap Petersen, Donald McEachin and Louise Lucas designed to rehabilitate ex-felons and restore their voting rights.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli testified in support of the conformed amendment (now SJR 266), as did representatives of the McDonnell administration and others.

In a statement on his blog, Ox Road South, Sen. Petersen elaborated on the process of the subcommittee.

“Thank you to the Governor’s Policy staff and Attorney General Cuccinelli who both came today to speak in favor of the bill. They were joined by the ACLU and Catholic Conference, so it was a pretty wide spectrum politically,” Petersen said.

“With the amended version, suggested by the governor and agreed by the Senate patrons, I feel like we have a pretty tightly drawn proposal which restores rights to nonviolent felons who both serve their time and fulfill the conditions of their probation.

“One thing to note: It is important that restoration be automatic and without strings attached for qualifying Virginians. That is what the Governor requested during the State of the Commonwealth address.”

The final vote in subcommittee was 3-3, with Sen. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) voting with the McEachin (D-Richmond) and Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) in favor of the amendment.

Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke), Sen. Bryce Reeves (R- Spotsylvania), and Sen. Stephen Martin (R-Chesterfield) voted no on the conformed amendment.

The constitutional amendment will now be heard by the full Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.

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