During Wednesday’s first full day of session, the Virginia General Assembly was addressed by Governor Bob McDonnell. During a speech which touched on transportation and education, the Governor made a point to discuss felon disenfranchisement and the need to make the restoration of voting rights automatic for non-violent felons.
Stating that “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,” Governor McDonnell called for Virginia to join other states which automate the restoration of rights. As Governor, McDonnell has expedited the review process for petitions for restoration of rights. It appears that in his last few months as Governor, he intends to make a lasting and permanent change in Virginia policy.
The General Assembly should listen to Governor McDonnell and pass HJ535, SJ269, or a similar bill which will begin the process of changing the Virginia Constitution to allow automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons. It is a two year process to change the Virginia Constitution, but as Governor McDonnell pointed out, it is time for Virginia to join the rest of the nation in providing a pathway to full integration in society for non-violent felons. The General Assembly has an opportunity to push Virginia in the right direction; we just hope that they were listening.