Virginia Governor Restores the Vote to Nonviolent Felons
|Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
Under the new felon voting rules, set to be implemented on July 15, 2013, people convicted of a nonviolent felony who have completed their term of incarceration and all probation or parole, paid all court costs, fines, and restitution, and who have no pending felony charges, will be immediately eligible to have their ability to vote restored.
Governor McDonnell explained that when "someone commits a crime they must be justly punished... However, once these individuals have served their time and fully paid for the offenses they committed, they should be afforded a clear and fair opportunity to resume their lives as productive members of our society... For those who have fully paid their debt for their crimes, they deserve a second chance to fully rejoin society and exercise their civil and constitutional rights."
Although the Republican Governor’s administrative action removed the prior two-year waiting period for nonviolent felons, it did not affect people convicted of violent felonies, who must still wait five years to apply for a gubernatorial restoration of rights.
Opponents of automatic restoration argue that waiting periods provide a needed check to make certain that felons have truly been rehabilitated. According to Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, "The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison… There are certain objective, minimum standards of responsibility and trustworthiness and commitment to our laws that must be met before we allow people to participate in the sacred enterprise of self-government."
Each US state sets its own felon voting laws. Maine and Vermont allow convicted felons to vote from prison, while 13 other states allow all felons to vote immediately upon release from prison. Four states allow all felons to vote after serving their term of parole, and 19 states allow all felons to vote after all parole and probation is served. Twelve states, including Virginia, prohibit some (or all) felons from voting even after completion of all parole and probation.
Jeff Caldwell, "Governor McDonnell Announces Automatic Restoration of Voting and Civil Rights on Individualized Basis for Non-Violent Felons," governor.virginia.gov, May 29, 2013
Roger Clegg, "Felon Voting," ceousa.org, July 16, 2012
New York Times, "Restoring the Vote in Virginia," nytimes.com, June 1, 2013
Jim Nolan and Andrew Cain, "McDonnell to Speed Rights Process for Nonviolent Felons," timesdispatch.com, June 4, 2013
Christopher Uggen, Sarah Shannon, and Jeff Manza, "State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010," sentencingproject.org, July 2012
Washington Post, "Disenfranchised Ex-Cons a Stain on Virginia’s Democracy," washingtonpost.com, May 28, 2013