In his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) endorsed the automatic the restoration of civil rights for non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. Virginia is one of a handful of states that prohibits all citizens convicted of felonies from voting, even after they serve their terms, unless they are granted clemency by the governor.
The conservative McDonnell, who has earned praise from progressive leaders for using his clemency power to restore voting rights to a record number of Virginians, used his final State of the Commonwealth speech to endorse legislative efforts to amend the Virginia Constitution to restore voting rights automatically. While a variety of proposals have been filed, McDonnell mentioned by name two: one which would make restoration automatic for all felons after completing their sentences and one which would change the system for only non-violent felons.
McDonnell told the General Assembly:
While we have significantly improved and fast-tracked the restoration of civil rights process, it’s still an executive process. As a nation that believes in redemption and second chances, we must provide a clear path for willing individuals to be productive members of society once they have served their sentences and paid their fines and restitution. It is time for Virginia to join most of the other states and make the restoration of civil rights an automatic process for non-violent offenders.
This session, Delegates Greg Habeeb and Peter Farrell have introduced bills to address this issue, and I urge you to support legislation for the automatic restoration of rights for non-violent felons.