Something tells me we’re going to be getting a bunch of these types of announcements (see below) from Gov. Northam’s office in coming weeks/months.
Unfortunately, as Robert Zullo writes in today’s Virginia Mercury, Northam has “missed chances to lead on race as governor.” For instance, Northam COULD have – but didn’t – “weigh in forcefully on behalf of a marginalized African-American community staring down the prospect of a giant, polluting industrial project planned for their rural area.” Northam also could NOT have – but he DID – “pull two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board as it was weighing a permit for that same industrial facility — Dominion Energy’s Buckingham compressor station.” And he DID – in wildly “tone-deaf” manner – “express concern about a Dominion compressor station in Maryland that might mar the view from Mount Vernon but clam up about the one in Virginia being planned for a former slave plantation in a community founded by freedmen that the state agency he oversees had authority over.”
So yeah…I’m happy to see Northam continuing to restore civil rights for ex-felons, but that’s a relatively easy one for him to do. What I really want to see is whether Northam will take action when it’s harder, for instance when it butts against the most powerful corporation (Dominion Energy) in the state. I don’t know about you, but I’m not holding my breath…
P.S. Also worth noting is that 173,000 ex felons had their rights restored during Gov. McAuliffe’s term in office (an average of around 43,000 per year), compared to just 10,992 in over a year of Gov. Northam’s term.
Governor Northam Announces Civil Rights Restored to Over 10,000 Virginians
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that since he took office just over a year ago, his administration has restored the civil rights of 10,992 Virginians previously convicted of a felony. The civil rights restored include the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office, and become a notary public.
“I believe in second chances and making our Commonwealth more open and accessible to all,” said Governor Northam. “Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy. This is an important achievement that marks my administration’s unwavering commitment to fairness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.”
“I am proud to have worked with two governors to improve the rights restoration process—making it easier for individuals to have a second chance and move forward with their lives,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “Governor Northam has been committed to this process from day one and our team has worked diligently to achieve this milestone.”
A number of reforms have been made to the restoration of rights process over the last six years, starting with Governor Robert McDonnell’s initiative in 2013 to streamline the process for non-violent felons. Governor Terry McAuliffe built upon those reforms during his administration, including eliminating the waiting period and the prerequisite for court costs and fees to be paid prior to having one’s rights restored. Upon leaving office, Governor McAuliffe had restored the rights of 173,166 Virginians, addressing a significant backlog of individuals who met his criteria for rights restoration. Today, the criteria and process remains in place, and Governor Northam has continued to restore the rights of individuals returning into society after being released from supervision. Over the course of the last year, Governor Northam has restored civil rights to more individuals than any other Virginia governor prior to Governor McAuliffe.
The rights restoration process does not restore an individual’s right to possess a firearm, which is also lost with a felony conviction. Individuals seeking to have their gun rights restored must petition the circuit court in their respective locality, after having their civil rights restored by the Governor.
For more information on restoration of rights and the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, visit restore.virginia.gov.