I was going to post on this ultra-cynical, dishonest, slimy bull**** by Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R), but Gov. McAuliffe’s office beat me to the punch (see press release below). I would just add a couple points.
First, Norment’s proposal “assigns to the General Assembly the responsibility of defining offenses that would be classified as violent,” which means that it’s up to Virginia Republicans to decide whether, for instance, drug offenses are “violent” or not. That alone could eliminate a huge number of ex-felons from ever getting their voting rights restored. Second, it would take a few years to get this into the constitution, even assuming it passed the Virginia General Assembly in two successive sessions with an election in between. Only then would it be put on the ballot.
So…all in all, this is a really bad joke by Norment and Virginia Republicans, who are far more interested in preventing people from voting than in encouraging more people to vote. Disgusting.
Governor McAuliffe Statement on Proposed Constitutional Amendment Filed by Republican Leadership
Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement today in response to the proposed constitutional amendment filed by Senator Thomas Norment:
“This cynical proposal unmasks Republican leaders’ true motive, which is to permanently disenfranchise men and women and condemn them to a lifetime as outcasts from our Commonwealth. While no one condones violent felonies, enlightened societies believe that all men and women are capable of redemption. As such, we remain committed to giving them a path to full citizenship in our Commonwealth. Senator Norment’s proposal would enshrine in our Constitution Virginia’s status as an outlier among the American states. Senator Norment proposes to make Virginia one of the most restrictive states in America in depriving its own citizens of any and all means to restore their civil rights.
“Senator Norment attempts to disguise this goal by couching his proposal as a means to ease restrictions against those who have committed nonviolent felonies, but the details of his plan expose that claim as a deliberate falsehood. In truth, this proposal is a step backward for those convicted of nonviolent felonies as well. His proposal would reinstate a burdensome requirement that individuals fully pay their court costs as a condition for the restoration of rights. This is an unfair demand that my administration eliminated as a modern-day poll tax on our citizens. We will not accept a punitive tax as a barrier to voting for the poorest Virginians. In addition, Senator Norment’s proposal would even restore a policy rejected by Governor Bob McDonnell requiring individuals to complete suspended sentences without supervision before their rights are restored.
“We will strongly oppose any new civil rights barriers that would move Virginia backwards and make our Commonwealth a national embarrassment. Senator Norment’s proposal is an affront to the ideals established by Virginian Thomas Jefferson 240 years ago.”