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Video: Virginia Gov. McAuliffe Announces Major Restoration of Voting Rights to 206k Former Felons


Wow, this is amazing (h/t to Jim Nolan of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the scoop! also see the Washington Post story here) — thank you Gov. McAuliffe! I just wish this had happened years ago (e.g., Gov. Kaine concluded he lacked the authority to do a blanket restoration), but better late than never. 🙂 Note, by the way, that a Democratic governor is busy EXPANDING voting rights, while Republicans focus on RESTRICTING voting rights as much as possible. In Republicans’ case, the reason they do this is obvious (despite their b.s./false explanation about preventing mythical “voter fraud”): because they know that the more people vote, the more Democrats win (and that the fewer people vote, the more Republicans win).

UPDATE: Love this quote in the Washington Post story“It is a historic day for democracy in Virginia and across our nation,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority, a progressive activist group. “The disenfranchisement of people who have served their sentences was an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past.”

  • Progress Virginia Applauds Governor McAuliffe’s Groundbreaking Restoration of Rights Announcement

    Richmond, VA – Progress Virginia today celebrated Governor McAuliffe’s groundbreaking rights restoration announcement that will allow thousands of Virginians who have paid their debt to society to fully participate in our democracy. Today’s executive order will restore voting rights to 206,000 former felons.

    “Today is a great day for Virginians, especially those individuals who have paid their debt to society and yearn to be able to fully participate in our democracy,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “Our state and our country are stronger when everyone’s voice is heard. Today’s historic announcement from Governor McAuliffe means a stronger commonwealth where we value and respect the voices and contributions of individuals who have made mistakes and are ready and eager to fully rejoin public life.”

  • Right-wingnut State Sen. Tom Garrett not pleased. Boo-f’in-hoo.


  • The viciousness, ugliness and racism of today’s GOP epitomized in this tweet about restoration of voting rights in Virginia


  • Excerpts from Gov. McAuliffe’s speech.


  • Rep. Bobby Scott: :”What a great day for VA!”


  • Wow, #Virginia Gov. McAuliffe makes history right here.


  • Del. Alfonso Lopez: “WOW – this is huge news for the Commonwealth. Virginia is one of only a handful of States that do not automatically restore the rights of felons upon completion of their sentences – and one of only four States in the nation that stringently requires application to the Governor. Estimates are that nearly 1 in 5 African Americans in Virginia are disenfranchised because of this law – an ugly remnant of our segregationist past. This is a major – positive step forward for civil rights and justice in Virginia”

  • Levar Stoney statement:

    “Today, I stood next to the Governor of Virginia to announce that we have restored the rights of over 200,000 people. They will no longer need to go through the tedious process that once existed for getting their rights restored – all they have to do is register to vote. The right to vote for formerly incarcerated people is an issue close to my heart, and as Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I led this effort to restore voting rights.

    This is also a personal matter for me: my father was convicted of a felony in New York many years ago, and didn’t know he could participate in the civic process. You can read my story here: http://www.richmondjustice.org/levar

    If elected mayor, I will work day in and day out to close the door on the cycle of poverty and recidivism.”

  • Sen. Scott Surovell: “Governor Terry McAuliffe has just restored the rights of 224,000 Virginians! The last vestiges Jim Crow is on the way out.”

  • Virginia AG Mark Herring statement on restoration of voting rights:
    “This is a life-changing day for hundreds of thousands of Virginians who will once again have a voice in the direction of their Commonwealth and their community. So many who already have the right to vote seem to take it for granted and fail to recognize how fundamental it is to the functioning of our democracy and our identity as Americans. For too many, that right was beyond their reach because of a mistake made years or decades ago. In restoring the rights of our fellow citizens who have long ago served their sentence, Governor McAuliffe is turning a page, providing hope, and empowering hundreds of thousands of Virginians who have been disenfranchised for far too long.”

  • Statement from Virginia Organizing:

    Virginia Organizing leaders were present in Richmond today as Governor Terry McAuliffe announced executive action to restore civil rights to 206,000 returning citizens. Virginia Organizing Chairperson Ladelle McWhorter offered the following in response:

    “Virginia Organizing is grateful to Governor Terry McAuliffe for using his executive power to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 returning citizens in Virginia. Although this is not a permanent solution to changing the restoration of rights process, it is a solution for real people that will have a real effect on their lives and their ability to participate in the civic process. Virginia Organizing will continue to organize to support a constitutional change that would permit an automatic restoration process.”

  • Governor McAuliffe Restores Voting and Civil Rights to Over 200,000 Virginians

    RICHMOND – 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: http://www.Commonwealth.Virginia/RoR

    The full text of Governor McAuliffe’s order restoring the rights of more than 200,000 Virginians is below:

    Order for the Restoration of Rights


    WHEREAS, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia requires that all those convicted of a felony be deprived of their civil right to vote unless they have their civil rights restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority; and

    WHEREAS, it is estimated that approximately 206,000 Virginians are permanently disenfranchised from participating in political life due to prior felony convictions even after completing their court-ordered sentences; and

    WHEREAS, such disenfranchisement disproportionately affects racial minorities and economically disadvantaged Virginians; and

    WHEREAS, Virginians have increasingly advanced the ideals of equality of all races and peoples, while rejecting the indefinite and unforgiving stigmatization of persons who have committed past criminal acts; and

    WHEREAS, the Governor is empowered by Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia “to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction,” thus to restore the political rights of any persons disqualified by Article II, Section 1; and

    WHEREAS, the power granted to the Governor under Article V, Section 12 to remove political disabilities is absolute and without any limitation not expressly stated within the Constitution of Virginia; and

    WHEREAS, all individuals who have served the terms of their incarceration and any periods of supervised release deserve to re-enter society on fair and just terms, including to participate in the political and economic advancement of Virginia; and

    WHEREAS, the restoration of civil rights has been noted to achieve substantial benefits for those individuals who have felt long-exiled from mainstream life; and

    WHEREAS, democracy is strengthened by having more citizens involved in the political process;

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, Terence R. McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, by and through the authority vested in me under Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia, do hereby order the removal of the political disabilities consequent upon conviction of a felony imposed by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia from all those individuals who have, as of this 22nd day of April 2016, (1) completed their sentences of incarceration for any and all felony convictions; and (2) completed their sentences of supervised release, including probation and parole, for any and all felony convictions. The civil rights restored by this Order are: (1) the right to vote; (2) the right to hold public office; (3) the right to serve on a jury; and (4) the right to act as a notary public. Nothing in this Order restores the right to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.

    Given under my hand and under the Lesser Seal of the Commonwealth at Richmond, on April 22, 2016 in the 240th year of the Commonwealth.

  • The ACLU of Virginia applauds Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order today that restores, as of today, the voting rights of 206,000 Virginians convicted of felonies but who have completed their sentences.

    “The Governor’s action today matched our hopes and exceeded our expectations. The ACLU of Virginia has urged three straight governors to use their executive and constitutional power to restore the rights of all Virginians who have served their time and completed probation and parole. In our most recent letter to Gov. McAuliffe on March 7, we pointed to ‘the significant and continuing adverse impact of the racial disparities of our racial justice system’ as one of the most important reasons to let Virginians who have paid the price for their actions once again be a part of the democratic process and enjoy the full rights of citizenship.

    “It is particularly commendable that the Governor included both non-violent and violent ex-offenders in his order, directed the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office to monitor newly eligible persons and restore their rights on a monthly basis, and restated that eligibility is not contingent upon individuals having paid their fines and court costs.

    “Governor McAuliffe deserves high praise for significant actions taken before today: 1) restoring the voting rights of more than 18,000 Virginian (more than the previous seven governors combined), 2) smoothing the restoration process for persons convicted of non-violent drug offenses, and 3) eliminating a requirement that court costs and fines be repaid before restoration (something he correctly labeled today ‘a vestige of the poll tax’). Today’s executive order reflects the Governor’s recognition that the depth of disenfranchisement in Virginia and its deep roots in Virginia’s Jim Crow past required bolder executive action for progress to be made.”

  • Video: AG Mark Herring discusses Gov. McAuliffe’s restoration of voting rights


  • From the Virginia House Dem Caucus:

    Statements on the Governor’s Historic Restoration of Rights Announcement

    Richmond, VA – Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) and Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) issued the following statements regarding the Governor’s historic restoration of rights announcement.

    “Virginians who have made mistakes, served their time and returned to their community should have the right to fully participate in their community. Thanks to the Governor’s actions today, over 200,000 Virginians now have that basic human dignity of a vote restored to them. This is a monumental stand for civil rights and we applaud the Governor’s courage and leadership.” – Del. David Toscano, Leader of the House Democratic Caucus

    “This is an exciting day, not just for those who are having their rights restored, but for all Virginians. While some in our state continue to put up barriers to voting rights, Governor McAuliffe is beginning to break them down. We thank the Governor and those legislators who worked tirelessly to change the restoration process. And, we congratulate those who have regained their democratic right to the ballot box.” – Del. Charniele Herring, Chair of the House Democratic Caucus</blockquote.

  • McEachin Praises Gov. McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Order

    Candidate in VA-4 has championed rights restoration in GA for years

    RICHMOND — State Sen. Donald McEachin, Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District, today praised Gov. McAuliffe’s order restoring civil rights, including voting rights, to more than 200,000 Virginians.

    Senator McEachin said, “Democracy should and must be inclusive. When a person has served his time, paid his debt to society, and again become a contributing member of our community, that person deserves the right to participate in our democracy and vote.

    “I am delighted that the governor has acted — and I am deeply disappointed in those suggesting that making it easier for Virginians to vote is somehow a partisan political trick.

    “Over the years, I have repeatedly carried legislation that would have provided for automatic restoration of former offenders’ rights. Time and again, these measures have been rejected by Republicans — whether or not there was a presidential election looming on the horizon. Gov. McAuliffe’s action is an overdue response to a grave injustice, and those who suggest otherwise are simply wrong.”

  • Appalling tweets on ex-felons’ rights restoration by Del. Rob Bell (R-Of course), who must NEVER become Attorney General of Virginia! https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1588/26488923422_45607903c0_o.jpg

  • Also disgusting, here’s Virginia House Speaker Bill “ALEC” Howell (R):

    I am stunned yet not at all surprised by the Governor’s action. I am stunned at his broad and unprecedented view of executive power, which directly contradicts how past Governors have interpreted their clemency powers, and I am stunned at his willingness to restore the rights of the most heinous criminals without batting an eye. Yet, I am not surprised by the lengths to which he is willing to go to deliver Virginia to Hillary Clinton in November.

    It is hard to describe how transparent the Governor’s motives are. The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet. The one-time nature of this action is proof positive of the Governor’s political motivations. Instead of adopting a clear policy that can be applied equitably, he is changing the rules in the middle of the 2016 election to ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory.

    The Governor’s policy applies to criminals who have committed even the most heinous violent crimes including murder, rape, child rape, and kidnapping. Under this Governor’s policy, violent criminals will be treated the same as lifelong law-abiding citizens. Not only will these criminals have the right to vote, but they will also be serving on our juries. By using no discretion in this process, the Governor is undermining the strength of the criminal justice system and the sanctity of our civil rights.

  • Video: Republican David Brooks agrees with Terry McAuliffe on restoring ex-felons’ rights


  • Statement by Mark Obenshain, who lost to Mark Herring for Virginia AG by a tiny margin in 2013, shows why elections – and voting! – matter so much.

    “It is clear that the Governor has overstepped his statutory and constitutional authority by signing this executive action, which automatically restores civil rights to over 200,000 convicted felons. Democrat and Republican Governors dating back more than 30 years have researched this issue and all have concluded that they do not have the sweeping executive authority the Governor has sought to exercise today. Even Governor Kaine reached this conclusion, which his counsel explained in a detailed letter sent to the ACLU on January 15, 2010. As Governor Kaine’s counsel explained, absent an amendment to the Virginia Constitution, a Governor cannot do what this Governor did today. This is the kind of unconstitutional executive overreach that we have seen all too often in Washington. We deserve better from a Governor of Virginia.

    “While I do support a streamlined process to restore civil rights, the Governor has gone too far. I cannot endorse the Governor’s sweeping and unconstitutional action today. The Governor restored rights without any regard to the seriousness or violent nature of the crimes committed, whether these individuals have paid their court costs in full, whether they have stayed out of trouble since their release, or most importantly, whether they have paid restitution to the victims. The action today by the Governor fails to respect victims of crime, the rule of law and is clearly unconstitutional.”

  • Video: Gov. McAuliffe talks to Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour – “What I did today was to erase 114-115 years of really repressive taxes used to deprive people their right to vote.” McAuliffe says if he were going to do this for political reasons, he would have done it before the 2015 elections. Also, Hillary Clinton won’t need it, she’s going to beat Donald Trump in Virginia. “I have the legal authority, I have the moral authority, and I did it.”


  • Predictably hysterical, over-the-top comments from corrupt slimeball, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R).

    “Today, we learned once again that Terry McAuliffe will go to extreme lengths to win an election. To him, the Constitution of Virginia can be disregarded if it stands in the way of what he perceives to be an electoral advantage for his long-time patrons, the Clintons.

    “Considering that the entire General Assembly was in session just two days ago, the timing of this action should give all legislators pause. Perhaps this governor does not expect to have to work with the General Assembly next session, as he might be planning on an appointment to an office headquartered in a different capitol city.

    “With this action, what scant civility remains between the General Assembly and this Governor has been stretched to the breaking point. By consistently placing partisanship above all other considerations, including longstanding constitutional limitations on his power, he has demonstrated his complete and total disregard for the Commonwealth, the Constitution, and the people of Virginia.”