DPVA: “Dems Call on McDonnell to Rescind New Barrier to Voting and Gun Rights”

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    According to the Democratic Party of Virginia, “It’s shocking that the Governor would unnecessarily stumble on Virginia’s history yet again.” Actually, some of us aren’t “shocked” at all, but that’s another story. 🙂

    P.S. How did the 2nd Amendment get in here, I must have missed something? Also, as far as I’m concerned, there can’t be too many barriers for felons to get a hold of guns. No thanks!

    Virginia Democrats called on Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday to remove an unnecessary additional barrier to restoration of rights for non-violent felons who have served their sentences.

    The McDonnell Administration will require non-violent felons to write a detailed essay in order to have their voting and 2nd Amendment rights restored, according to news reports this weekend.

    Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director David Mills released the following statement Monday:

    “Governor McDonnell should immediately remove this costly and burdensome barrier for non-violent offenders to renew their voting and 2nd Amendment rights.  It’s mind-boggling that Governor McDonnell would choose to bury the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in unnecessary paperwork during a time of belt-tightening and budget cuts. Surely the Secretary’s valuable time could be used in more productive ways than grading essays for Governor McDonnell.

    “If Governor McDonnell wants to improve Virginia’s prisoner reentry efforts, he should make it easier for those who have completed their sentence to fully integrate back into society. Instead, he chose to institute an unprecedented roadblock in a Commonwealth with a painful history of blocking voting rights. Given his experience last week, it’s shocking that the Governor would unnecessarily stumble on Virginia’s history yet again.

    “Virginia now may have surpassed Kentucky as the state with the most obstacles to reintegration for non-violent offenders who have served their sentence. Virginians should not be subjected to more bureaucracy getting in the way of their rights to vote, hunt, or exercise any other Constitutional rights.

    “This is yet another unnecessary side project by Governor McDonnell when Virginia is facing its highest unemployment rate in nearly 30 years. Right now, Virginians have to be wondering, what happened to ‘Bob’s for Jobs?'”

    • linda b

      What is next? Women can’t work? Stay tuned.

    • A comment by Frank Anderson (who has been a terrific voice in raising awareness for this, even to people like me) made me think of something.

      Frank mentioned that he had written an essay of sorts when he submitted an application.  That made me wonder — what percentage of people who are asking to have their voting rights restored also write essays?  On the surface, this made the request for such an essay look reasonable.  But I think it  actually belies a sneaky way of denying MORE people their rights.  (And again, this isn’t exactly shocking.)

      For instance, if you wrote an essay, were you more likely to have your voting rights restored?  I would think so.  Crafting a well put together essay seems a clear indication of one’s ability to contribute to society.  Thus, writing an essay was, until McDonnell, a way of improving one’s chances.  That advantage has now been taken away.

      Also, it’s worth noting that many serving time in prison struggle with basic literacy skills (the number in prison with learning disabilities, for instance, is disproportionately higher than in the general population.)  McDonnell essentially says to these Virginians that they aren’t as worthy.

      Another issue is mental health.  Mental health issues in our prisoners spike against those in the general population.  These are people who again, may not have the skills to put together a well crafted piece of writing.  So again, another group of Virginians who are no longer worthy.

      Then, of course, there are the prisoners who do now speak fluent English.  I’m assuming that McDonnell isn’t going to read essays written in any other language.  

      I’m sure some reasonable Republican will come and point out that there are people who will help these Virginians write their essays.  But then we enter a sort of mobius strip — someone like me or people who post on these blogs helping a person with learning disabilities or mental health issues or broken English is going is likely to produce an essay that doesn’t sound very “authentic.”  It’s likely to be seen as a reason to NOT restore voting rights, not a help to the person writing for the request.

      Maybe I’ll be proven wrong — maybe McDonnell will continue to grant restoration in the thousands like Kaine and Warner, rather than the hundreds, as did his Republican predecessors.  I’d like to be proven wrong.  But somehow, I don’t think I will be.

    • “By requiring nonviolent offenders to submit an essay, Governor McDonnell is returning to a ‘blank sheet’ voter registration system that in the past disenfranchised many African American voters. By creating an additional, unnecessary and egregious hurdle, McDonnell has violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Federal Voting Rights Act.”

    • “Virginia is one of only two states in the nation that does not automatically restore non-violent offenders’ rights after they have completed their sentence. Governor McDonnell’s move creates another roadblock to the most basic democratic right we have: the ability to choose our own representatives. Someone who bounces a $200 check should not be permanently deprived of their right to vote or hunt.”

    • Peter 2010

      Brian writes, “The governor didn’t make the law that gave him discretion. That’s been the law, including under two Democratic Governors. I don’t like that he’s added the essay requirement, but the fact that the law gives him the discretion isn’t his fault. Blame the GA.” To the contrary, we should blame McDonnell. He was the one who took time out of his supposedly laser-like concentration on bringing jobs to Virginia to add a new hurdle to the discretionary voter restoratation process. And, if the GA does deserve blame, then why didn’t McDonnell ask the GA to eliminate the discretion and make restoration automatic?  

    • Teddy Goodson

      A requirement to write an essay sounds very much like a literacy test. Have not such shenanigans been outlawed as part of the old Jim Crow laws? Can this requirement be the subject of a lawsuit?