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BREAKING: Gov. Northam Announcing Executive Action to Restore Voting and Other Civil Rights to >69,000 Formerly Incarcerated Virginians [UPDATED]

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UPDATED 1:01 pm – Here’s Gov. Northam’s press release…

Governor Northam Restores Civil Rights to Over 69,000 Virginians, Reforms Restoration of Rights Process

~ New eligibility criteria mirror proposed Constitutional amendment ~

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today restored the civil rights of more than 69,000 Virginians using new eligibility criteria that mirror a proposed change to the Constitution of Virginia that would automatically restore voting rights to individuals upon completion of their sentence of incarceration.

Governor Northam announced that going forward, any Virginian released from incarceration will qualify to have their rights restored, even if they remain on community supervision. This change builds on a number of bipartisan reforms that have been made to the restoration of rights process over the last decade, including streamlining the application and eliminating the waiting period and the prerequisite that court costs and fees be paid prior to having one’s rights restored. With today’s announcement, Governor Northam has restored civil rights to more than 111,000 people since he took office.

“Too many of our laws were written during a time of open racism and discrimination, and they still bear the traces of inequity,” said Governor Northam. “We are a Commonwealth that believes in moving forward, not being tied down by the mistakes of our past. If we want people to return to our communities and participate in society, we must welcome them back fully—and this policy does just that.”

Under current law, anyone convicted of a felony in Virginia loses their civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a public notary, and carry a firearm. Virginia remains one of the three states in the nation whose constitution permanently disenfranchises citizens with past felony convictions, but gives the governor the sole discretion to restore civil rights, excluding firearm rights.

“Restoring the rights of Virginians who have served their time makes it easier for these men and women to move forward with their lives,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “I am proud of Governor Northam’s initiative to welcome these individuals back into society. All Virginians deserve to have their voices heard, and these changes demonstrate the Northam Administration’s continued commitment to second chances, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.”

During the 2021 General Assembly session, legislators approved a constitutional amendment that affirms the fundamental right to vote and automatically restores the civil rights of any individual, upon completion of their sentence of incarceration. The constitutional amendment has to be passed again by the General Assembly in 2022 before going to a voter referendum.

Governor Northam spoke at OAR of Richmond, a community leader in reentry services. In the coming days, he will visit other reentry service providers around Virginia to hear from returning citizens about their experiences, present them with their rights restoration documentation, and discuss the importance of the constitutional amendment that was passed by the General Assembly.

“This change will have a tremendous impact on the people we serve, enabling more Virginians to have their rights restored sooner,” said Sara Dimick, Executive Director of OAR of Richmond. “OAR is committed to removing barriers for those who seek to be contributing members of their communities, and we look forward to working with newly eligible individuals to ensure they can exercise their civil rights.”

For more information on restoration of rights, visit restore.virginia.gov.

Nice! I’ll post more (presumably a press release from Gov. Northam’s office) when I get it…

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam will announce Tuesday that he’s taking executive action to restore voting and other civil rights to former felons as soon as they complete their prison terms — a move that will immediately apply to more than 69,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians.

Northam’s action, shared first with CNN, is the latest push to expand the franchise to ex-convicts in the state, and comes just months before Virginia’s gubernatorial and state legislative elections.

State officials, in anticipation of the announcement, reviewed Department of Corrections records to identify the former felons who meet the new criteria, and Northam will restore the rights of 69,045 people Tuesday, said Kelly Thomasson, Virginia’s secretary of the commonwealth.

P.S. Recall that Democrats are working to pass a constitutional amendment which would provide that “A person who has been convicted of a felony shall not be entitled to vote during any period of incarceration for such felony conviction, but upon release from incarceration for that felony conviction and without further action required of him, he shall be invested with all political rights, including the right to vote.”

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