Great work by ProgressVA (see video and press release below) on the rally outside Virginia’s Supreme Court today in support of ex-felons’ voting rights. Also see WTOP reporter Max Smith’s Twitter feed for a blow-by-blow account of what’s going on in the courtroom. For instance, Virginia Solicitor General Stuart Raphael is arguing that “governor’s power to restore rights ‘is not qualified by any language” in the state constitution – not using power doesn’t lose it;” also that “if you grant standing to these petitioners then any voter can challenge pretty much any election law”
Richmond, VA – Hundreds of Virginians rallied outside the Supreme Court of Virginia this morning, in support of restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. Inside, the Court heard arguments in Speaker William Howell and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment’s lawsuit over Governor McAuliffe’s restoration of rights executive order.
The crowd at the rally heard testimony from formerly incarcerated individuals whose rights have been restored and faith leaders in support of the executive order. Following the rally, the crowd marched around the Supreme Court building, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and “When voting rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
Carol Abdul-Malik, 66-yr old disabled veteran, released July 5, 1978 and applied for 27 years to get his rights restored. His rights were finally restored in 2010 by Gov. McDonnell.
“Since I completed my sentence in 1978, I have volunteered with the Department of Corrections for over 30 years and been working hard to give back to my community. It’s not right that it took over 27 years of applying before my rights were finally restored in 2010 by Governor McDonnell. Virginia shouldn’t continue to hold the past against people who want to contribute to society and be productive citizens.”
Kelvin Manurs, a veteran and former felon, who founded and runs Arm & Arm, a nonprofit that helps former drug dealers reintegrate after incarceration.
“If my voice will not be heard in a conversation, a situation, an administration or a nation, then I am a whole lot less likely to consider myself a part of those whom are involved. But if I am heard, I feel a part of the community, and I am much more likely to consider those others in my decision making processes. The healing of our community and nation must include everyone. The restoration of voting rights is a very big step toward our nation’s healing process.”
Rev. Dr. J. Elisha Burke, Director of Health, Wellness, Men & Social Justice, Baptist General Convention of Virginia:
“Those who have served their time and met the requirements of their sentences should not be denied the right to vote forever. Restoring the right to vote to thousands of Virginians with prior felony convictions is a critical step to re-entering the community as full citizens able to participate in the democratic process. As Christians, we believe that justice has not be fully realized without restoration of the right to vote.”
Rev. Rich Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good:
“As an evangelical Christian, I refuse to stand by while those who have paid their debt to society are further disenfranchised. This sort of discrimination is contrary the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I take it as my moral responsibility to ensure that the rights of all of God’s children are protected and restored. We rally today to affirm both the precious right to civic participation and the power of redemption.”
The rally and march were sponsored by over a dozen community organizations, including the ACLU of Virginia, Advancement Project, Arm & Arm, Community Empowerment Alliance, Faith in Public Life, Latino Justice PRLDEF, Virginia League of Women Voters, Virginia NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, New Virginia Majority, Northern Virginia Restoration Initiative, NOVA Coalition, Open Door Communications, People Demanding Action, Progress Virginia Education Fund, RIHD, Rolling for Freedom, SEIU Virginia 512, Step Up Inc, VACOLAO, Virginia AFL-CIO, Virginia Civic Engagement Table, and the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights.