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UPDATED: Kaine will not issue blanket restoration of felon voting rights

Rosalind Helderman

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

By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 15, 2010; 5:32 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Mr. Kaine is doing the right thing, and as a result, the ACLU and NAACP are all over him. When a criminal acts to break the rules, he is responsible for losing the right to vote, and in no way should these rights be restored, nor should "blanket restoration" be granted to all felons. Perhaps losing the right to vote should be included when reading a suspect the Miranda Rights...better yet, put up sign boards that explain to criminal wannabes that they will indeed lost the right to vote if they're convicted of a felony, period! Oh, and don't forget the Spanish translation of same.

Posted by: poescrow | January 16, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Kaine's a pussy.

Posted by: phoule | January 16, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Governor Kaine is doing the WRONG thing, and as a result, the ACLU and NAACP are all over him. Incarceration is the punishment. Permanent disenfranchisement of former felons serves no purpose other than to prevent them from becoming fully productive members of society. The "tough on crime" crowd needs to realize that this is likely to INCREASE recidivism, not lower it.
Virginia's stance on this issue is shameful and medieval. That's why most other states don't do it.

Posted by: abndave | January 16, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The well kept dirty secret is that the overwhelming majority of people that come out of jail vote Democrat. That's why Republicans are so opposed to giving released felons the right to vote. Duh!

And now Kaine is acting like a Republican.

But then again, Democrats in VA have been acting like Republicans way too often recently. Which is why progressive people have stopped voting for them.

Posted by: v2008 | January 16, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Kaine is doing the right thing. The law in VA is wrong, but it needs to be changed in the legislature.

Posted by: ksu499 | January 16, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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