UPDATED: Kaine will not issue blanket restoration of felon voting rights
On his last day in office, Gov. Tim Kaine will not issue an order for blanket restoration of voting rights for Virginia felons.
Virginia is one of only two states that require action by the governor to restore the rights of felons after they have completed their sentences. The ACLU and others had been urging Kaine to issue an executive order on his way out the door restoring the ability to vote to all those who lost it through a felony conviction but had fully repaid their debt to society.
In a letter sent to the ACLU's executive director today, Kaine reiterated his longstanding opinion on the issue: He supports changing Virginia law to prevent a felony conviction from resulting in premanent disenfranchisement and he backs restoring rights to as many people as possible. But he believes the constitution bars him from issuing a blanket restoration of rights and, instead, he can only act to restore rights to individuals who apply.
Kaine notes that during his four years in office, he has restored the voting rights of more than 4,400 individuals who applied.
UPDATED: With hours to go before he leaves office, Kaine is getting blasted by several groups he'd probably prefer to see issuing laudatory statements about his term.
"We are extremely disappointed that Governor Kaine did not act before leaving office," said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. "This was his chance to have Virginia join the 48 other states that have put this aspect of Jim Crow behind them. Our hope now is that Governor-elect McDonnell will embrace reform of Viirginia's shameful felon disenfranchisement law and move us forward."
"The NAACP is disappointed in Governor Kaine's decision to not sign an executive order to restore voting rights to 300,000 formerly incarcerated people in Virginia. Although we commend Governor Kaine's efforts to restore people's rights on a case by case basis, Virginia remains out of line with the rest of the country and is one of two states where a felony conviction automatically leads to permanent disenfranchisement. As a matter of fairness, opportunity and democracy, people should be allowed to vote after paying their debt to society. We look forward to working with incoming Governor Mc Donald and his administration to assure that Virginia citizens have the right to participate in government and exercise their right to vote," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
"I am deeply disappointed in Governor Kaine's decision. The power of granting restoration of civil rights is vested in the Governor. The constitution of Virginia and the code of Virginia gives the Governor of Virginia the discretionary power to do this. Governor Kaine missed an important opportunity to leave a legacy that reverses discrimination and disenfranchisement and advance our state's democracy in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln," Rev. Rayfield Vines, President NAACP Virginia State Conference
January 15, 2010; 5:32 PM ET
Categories: Rosalind Helderman
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