Nearly 3,500 Former Convicts Regain Right to Vote in Virginia

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The civil rights of 3,496 formerly incarcerated Virginians were restored by the state’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday.

“I am encouraged that over 3,400 Virginians will take this critical first step towards vibrant futures as citizens with full civil rights,” Youngkin said in a May 20 press release. “Individuals with their rights restored come from every walk of life and are eager to provide for themselves, their families, and put the past behind them for a better tomorrow.”

The move was coordinated by the secretary of the commonwealth in conjunction with the Department of Corrections.

Individuals were also vetted by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Compensation Board, as well as the Department of Elections.

The restoration of rights offers the formerly incarcerated individuals a “fresh step forward,” said Secretary Kay Coles James.

Though these people have “made mistakes,” they have done their duty to the community and wish to be “full and productive citizens” of the commonwealth, she said in the press release.

Once released from prison, individuals convicted of felonies can request restoration of civil rights. Such rights include the right to vote, serve on a jury, become a notary public, and run for a public office.

In most states, convicted felons tend to get back their right to vote once their sentences are completed. However, 11 states permanently block the voting right once a person is convicted of a felony, one of them being Virginia.

The Virginia Constitution grants the governor the power to restore most of the rights back to convicted felons except the right to possess firearms, which would require approaching a Circuit Court judge.

In March last year, then-Virginia Gov. Democrat Ralph Northam restored voting and other civil rights for felons. Even if they live under community supervision, the felons can still be eligible to cast votes.

“To be eligible for restoration of civil rights, an individual must be free from any term of incarceration resulting from felony conviction(s),” according to Virginia’s official website for restoring rights. Individuals have to contact the secretary of the commonwealth to request rights restoration.

The decision comes as the Justice Department released a guide detailing state voting rules that apply after criminal convictions. While offering information about how each state differs in providing voting rights back to convicts, it also provides details on how to reach relevant officials if someone wants to register to vote.

“The right to vote affirms returning citizens’ membership and belonging in the broader community,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a May 20 press release.

“And it helps to ensure that the communities to which they belong have a meaningful opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing,” she added.

Naveen Athrappully

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Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.



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