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Virginia Gov. to restore voting rights to 69,000 former felons

Under current state law, people convicted of felonies lose the right to vote, serve on juries or run or public office.

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Virginia FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2020, file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam answers a reporter's question during a news briefing in Richmond, Va. Members of anti-government paramilitary groups discussed kidnapping Virginia's governor during a June meeting in Ohio, an FBI agent testified Tuesday, Oct. 13 during a court hearing in Michigan. Special Agent Richard Trask was part of the investigation that led to six men being arrested and charged last week with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP, File)

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that he would restore the voting rights of 69,000 people convicted of felonies in the state through executive action.

Northam’s move would make Virginia the latest state to reverse policies that disenfranchise convicted felons.

Earlier this year, Virginia’s General Assembly pre-approved a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for formerly convicted persons, The Washington Post reported.

“Probationary periods can last for years. But that’s also time in which a person is living in the community, rebuilding their lives,” Northam said. “They should be able to exercise those civil rights, even if they are still under supervision.”

Under current state law, people convicted of felonies lose the right to vote, serve on juries or run or public office, according to CNN. 

As governor, Northam has restored the voting rights for 111,000 Virginians; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the voting rights of 156,000 people, according to reports. McAuliffe is running for governor again in November.

“Letting these folks vote or exercise other civil rights isn’t a threat to public safety,” Northam said. “We’re a Commonwealth that believes in second chances. And we believe in forgiveness. We want people to move forward — not be tied down by the mistakes of their past.”