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Panel kills bills to restore felons’ voting rights

RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell and other key Republicans, as well as Democratic legislators, say they are disappointed that a House subcommittee today killed proposals to automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have served their prison sentences.

“I am very disappointed in today’s vote against these constitutional amendments. Once individuals have served their time and paid their fines, restitution and other costs, they should have the opportunity to rejoin society as fully contributing members,” McDonnell said.

The constitutional amendments subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee considered eight proposals introduced by delegates to restore the civil rights of felons who have completed their prison terms.

All of the proposed constitutional amendments were folded into one – House Joint Resolution 535, sponsored by Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria.

The subcommittee, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, then voted 6-1 to recommend that Herring’s amendment be “passed by indefinitely.” That means those proposals probably won’t be considered again this legislative session. Only Delegate Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, voted against the motion.

The vote took place less than a week after McDonnell, in his State of the Commonwealth address, urged the General Assembly to support the restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felons. 

“I believe strongly, as a matter of conscience, in protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens. And I believe that it is time for Virginia to join the overwhelming majority of states in eliminating our bureaucratic restoration process and creating a clear predictable constitutional and statutory process,” McDonnell said in his address last week.

Herring also expressed her frustration over the subcommittee’s decision.

“The House Republicans’ actions speak louder than words,” she said. “Instead of finding common ground on an issue like the restoration of voting rights, they are working to make it harder to vote while they think no one is watching.”

The restoration of voting rights has been on the Democrats’ agenda for years, but key Republicans now support the issue as well.

Republican Delegate Greg Habeeb of Salem sponsored one of the constitutional amendments that had been incorporated into Herring’s proposal. He still hopes that the General Assembly will approve the idea.

“I am disappointed in the outcome this morning. However, our work does not end here, and I am optimistic about the future of this legislation. In the years ahead, I will continue to push for a more efficient and less burdensome re-entry process in the commonwealth,” he said.

Habeeb’s proposal would have automatically restored rights to nonviolent felony offenders after the completion of their sentence, including the payment of any fines or restitution.

Although the House subcommittee voted down the proposals, the idea isn’t completely dead.

Four constitutional amendments to restore felons’ civil rights are pending in the Senate. If the Senate approves such a proposal, it will come back to the House for consideration.

Both McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a fellow Republican, said they will continue to push for voting rights restoration.

“Though I am disappointed with this morning’s outcome, I will continue to keep up the fight on this important issue,” said Cuccinelli, who is running for governor this year.

“I would welcome the opportunity to testify before members of the Senate in an effort to underscore the importance of the restoration of civil rights to these individuals. I encourage other members of the General Assembly to join me in this important fight.”


Tim in Sterling - I am offended by your assumption that Fred is a Christian.  Once again, someone had to the single-out someone’s religion for the purpose of demeaning them, while having no proof either way.  It’s rhetoric like this that is half the problem with religion - stereotyping and intolerance for sport.  Knock it off already.

“Forgiveness from whom, exactly?  It’s one thing for the victim of a crime to forgive the criminal.  But the victim has authority in the criminal’s rights or lack of them.”

I don’t think a victim should have any say in the restoration of rights.  A person has served their time and should be able to be a full member of society again.

Many crimes like DUI, drug possession, etc., don’t have victims per se.  who would judge that?

“Your statement shows your ignorance.  You probably consider yourself a Christian too.  Think about forgiveness.”

Forgiveness from whom, exactly?  It’s one thing for the victim of a crime to forgive the criminal.  But the victim has authority in the criminal’s rights or lack of them.

Obviously this same bunch of people calling for rights of felons to be restored likely don’t feel the same way about those who’ve served their time for Sexual Crimes.  How about we also remove people’s names from the Sexual Offender’s Registry?  You wouldn’t want to be hypocritical, would you?

According to Mr. Sanford’s logic, the same felons should also be free from taxes, since their rights as a free citizen have been taken as a result of their crime.

Your statement shows your ignorance.  You probably consider yourself a Christian too.  Think about forgiveness.

People make mistakes and bad choices and should be afforded the opportunity to become a participating member of society again.  Are you telling me that a 19-year old who shoplifts or a 22-year old who has a DUI shouldn’t be able to vote ever again?

Virginia allows felons to get their rights restored.  It’s just a process that needs to go through the Governor’s office.  This will just standardize the process.

As someone who has made one of those bad choices, I hope some version of this bill passes.

Even non-violent felonies? Some people go through rough patches, especially when they’re young.

If the individual has met all their requirements of their punishment, then their debt to society is paid in full. If they are non-violent, then they should get their voting rights back.

There is no reason that a felon should EVER have any of their rights restored. No voting, no guns, no nothing. Their felony crime should be a Scarlett Letter around their neck.

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