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Groups ask McDonnell to drop letter requirement, revamp rights restoration process for felons

Anita Kumar

A trio of national groups has sent a letter to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to express "serious concerns" about proposed alterations to the state's process to allow felons to get their voting rights restored and to ask him to implement changes to the process.

McDonnell may require nonviolent offenders to submit a letter to him outlining their contributions to society since their release as part of their application. He has pledged to process every application within 90 days, considerably faster than any other administration in recent history.

The letter, written by the ACLU, the Sentencing Project and the Brennan Center for Justice, asks McDonnell to abandon the letter requirement, allow people to apply to have their rights restored immediately upon completing their sentences (currently they have to wait three to five years), not to force applicants to pay fees, fines and restitution and process all applicants within 90 days.

"As a group of civil rights and criminal justice organizations, we believe that the right to vote is not only fundamental to the modern ideal of an inclusive democracy, but is also a critical component of successful reentry back into the community,'' the letter says. Read the full letter.

McDonnell said this morning on his monthly call-in show on WTOP that complaints by a pair of African American legislators, Del. Charniele
Herring of Alexandria and Sen. Yvonne B. Miller of Norfolk, and others about the letter proposal were "flat wrong." He again blamed the media for misinformation about the proposal.

"They're both absolutely flat wrong and those comments are just not appropriate,'' he said. "They're both great legislators, but they're absolutely wrong."

The Post reported that McDonnell's administration sent more than 200 letters to felons asking them to write letters to the governor as part of their applications by mistake.

"I'm going to have the fastest and fairest civil rights restoration process of any governor in Virginia history,'' he said."

McDonnell said on the radio show that the national criticism he endured over Confederate History Month and the rights restoration process do not take him out of the running for higher office, though he said he never had ambitions for higher office.

"I haven't expressed interest in another office other than being an excellent governor of Virginia,'' he said.

By Anita Kumar  |  April 27, 2010; 6:10 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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