Criminal defense attorney Patrick Woolley graduated from George Mason University School of Law in 2010 and has been a dedicated criminal defense attorney for over seven years. He believes in fighting for the rights of his clients and focusing on the individual concerns of each person.
Virginia election officials have decided on August 8th as the deadline to cancel voting rights of felons who had recently registered to vote.
Many will remember that earlier this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a historic move forward in voting rights when he restored the right to vote to over 20,000 200,000 felons and ex-offenders who are no longer incarcerated, on probation, or parole.
On July 22nd, the Virginia State Supreme Court turned down his decision, ruling that he overstepped his powers, and stating that he can only reinstate voting rights on a case-by-case basis and not en masse.
This decision was detrimental to equality and justice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and could have dire consequences in the November elections. Now, thousands of American citizens are at risk of losing their constitutional right to vote.
Many Republicans will say that Governor McAuliffe only restored these voting rights in order to help Democrats, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton specifically, in the fall.
What these critics should be concerned with, however, is why their party has no appeal to a new class of voters and why they feel the need and desire to restrict the rights of Americans in order to protect their political clout.
Governor Terry McAuliffe has vowed to review the list of the 12,500 former offenders who had already registered to vote and is planning to individually sign the orders to restore voting rights for each. This fight isn’t always easy, but with advocates and champions like Governor McAuliffe fighting every day, progress is slowly made.
While those voting rights will now be stripped by the August 8th deadline, the Governor has stated his office plans to restore the rights for all, in time to register and vote in November and even send them a new voter application with their restoration announcement. Registrars offices in Richmond said they will have to deny some 800 applications now, while others are reporting even higher numbers.
After the Governor’s initial restoration of rights, hard-working advocates in many of the most populous areas across the state set out to meet with ex-offenders and register those who met the new voter guidelines.
Those same advocates are now looking to the courts to help them, as the decision is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. With a court split evenly between conservative and liberal judges, it’s unclear whether they will even hear the case before the election this year.
While courts in Wisconsin and North Carolina have recently delivered victories for civil rights and voting activists, the decision from Virginia’s highest court shows that the battle for justice continues daily. We all must continue to stand up for those whose fundamental rights are under attack.