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Felons' Rights

It might seem like an odd rallying cry in a state that often takes a hard line on law-and-order matters. But today Democrats hammered at the issue to an enthusiastic response from the party's base.

When Terry McAuliffe this morning called for restoring voting rights for released felons in a stump speech from a church pulpit, parishioners rewarded him with a standing ovation, my colleague Freddy Kunkle reports. It was a big applause line for Brian Moran at a church stop today as well.

Mike Signer, an Arlington lawyer running against Jody Wagner in the lieutenant governor's race, has made the issue one of the pillars of his statewide campaign.

Nearly all states but Virginia allow felons to vote after their debt to society has been paid, Signer said, and not doing so has kept large numbers of African American men from becoming full citizens of the Commonwealth again.

"It goes back to Virginia's Jim Crow era," Signer said. "It's a law that was designed with a racial purpose in mind in an older chapter of Virginia's past."

It's not that he has warmth for felons, he added. It's that he has warmth for democracy, and fully reintegrating individuals after they've served their sentences would strengthen society, not weaken it.

Wagner, a former secretary of finance, also supports restoring voting rights.

Signer said he wasn't worried about teeing up a possible wedge issue.

By Michael Laris  |  June 7, 2009; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , 2009 Lieutenant Governor's Race , Brian J. Moran , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Terry McAuliffe  
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Comments

Mr. Signer's claim, as characterized in this post, that "Nearly all states but Virginia allow voting after their debt to society has been paid" is demonstrably false.

Virginia is not alone in restricting the voting rights of those convicted of felonies, requiring special action on the part of felons who have completed all the conditions of their sentences. And, the states who have such laws are not restricted to those with a history of "Jim Crow" segregation. There are around a dozen such states, and there are others with similar though less restrictive requirements.

Debates on this issue should be informed and restricted to the facts. That Mr. Signer failed to do so - and that the Post would reprint his false assertion without contest - is disappointing and does a disservice to the readers.

Posted by: RSNSouth | June 8, 2009 1:26 AM | Report abuse

why would you want criminals to set the agenda...

Posted by: DwightCollins | June 8, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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