GOP-Controlled Virginia House Committee Kills Voting Rights Restoration Proposals

Civil rights restorations application

Convicted felons in must petition to the governor for voting rights clemency

The Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee with jurisdiction over constitutional amendments killed a series of proposals Monday that would have restored the civil rights of persons convicted of a felony who have completed their sentences. This move come days after Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) endorsed changing the Virginia constitution to automatically allow non-violent felons to regain their voting rights after serving their time.

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. A series of proposals by Democrats and Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates were rejected, en mass, by the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The subcommittee’s four Republicans unanimously voted to kill all of the proposals, Democrats Algie Howell (D) and Johnny Joannou (D) were the only votes in favor of any of the measures.

Both McDonnell’s Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Vestal Kelly and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) attended the hearing to speak in support automatic restorations. Had any of the bills passed through the Virginia General Assembly this year and again next year, it would have gone to a statewide referendum.

Deputy House Majority Leader C. Todd Gilbert (R), a former prosecutor who does not sit on the committee, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he opposed automatic restoration because felons already get off too easy. ‚ÄúThese are not people we ask of much … All we ask them is to show a little personal responsibility and fill out a simple application [for rights restoration].” Far from just simple procedural act, applying for clemency is no guarantee that whoever is governor will grant the clemency request.