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Kaine: Most felons already write letters for civil rights restoration

Anita Kumar

Former Virginia governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine appears to support a proposal by his Republican successor, Bob McDonnell, to require nonviolent felons to write a letter to have their voting rights restored.

"Frankly, everyone wrote an essay because they wrote a letter asking for their rights to be restored, and most often in those letters they'd talk about what they had learned," Kaine said in an interview last night with CBS 6 TV in Richmond.

Kaine's statement is surprising because most Democrats in the state, including the Democratic Party of Virginia, the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, issued scathing statements in recent days.

When Kaine was governor, felons convicted of nonviolent crimes were able to apply to have their voting rights restored by filling out a one-page form with information about their arrest and conviction. McDonnell wants to require offenders to submit a letter to him outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a more subjective one that some say might prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote.

Updated: DNC spokesman Alec Gerlach sent us a statement. "Republicans are mischaracterizing the Governor's position. Governor Kaine restored significantly more voting rights than any Governor in Virginia's history, and his position on the restoration of voting rights has always been clear. Non-violent felons who've repaid their debts to society and are living peaceably in their communities ought to have their rights restored--not be subject to an essay contest."

By Anita Kumar  |  April 13, 2010; 2:21 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Your editorial correctly identifies voting as a right. No such right should be a matter of subjective appraisal (i.e. a letter written to the Governor) but be determined by clear objective criteria not subject to the biases and prejudices of bureaucrats. In this case, bringing Virginia into line with other 48 states would be not merely a restoration of a right, but a clear example of restraining the power of government.

Posted by: hsockett1 | April 13, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

With or without the new requirement, there's no standard, no clear path, and no due process to getting one's rights restored. You could write the letter and meet the requirements of the application but still be denied with no reason given. The process for restoration of rights is arbitrary and capricious, performed in secret, and devoid of any method of appeal. There's a two-year waiting period to reapply.

Why not make restoration automatic after a certain period of time, like everyone else (besides Kentucky) does? If ex-felons are allowed to drive, get married, raise children, and own a business, then why should they be required to write a letter begging the Governor for the right to vote?

Posted by: franko2 | April 13, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The essay is a concern to me primarily because it's a government request to state church involvement (among other things). The government cannot favor people who are religiously active over people who are not religiously active -- or vice versa! For example, firing a science teacher because he or she is religious in private life, while keeping another one who is not practicing a religion, would be equally offensive. Either way, it's mixing religion and government in a way that is not just unconstitutional but un-American. Keep government out of religion.

If I'm being unfair and people who do go to church and those who don't go to church are treated just the same, what's the point of the question?

Also, it seems that to answer it fully, applicants would also have be clear which particular religion they are, also something the government should not be requiring anyone to state. If a person goes to church, to synagogue, to the mosque, or to a Hindu temple (and if the church has a Protestant, Catholic, or traditionally black Protestant denominational name), that is information the government should never have sought to learn as a condition of letting someone vote.

I'd hate to see the statistics as to which religions get voting rights and which generally don't. There can't be a good, democratic answer to that since the question should never have arisen.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | April 13, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

HA HA Its funny. All the liberals that commented on her other article about how EVIL OL Bob is...seem to have disappeared!!!

Posted by: kenayers1 | April 13, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Wait a second... why was this video "authorized and paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia?"

Posted by: franko2 | April 13, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is assuming that a convicted felon in Virginia is capable of writing an essay.

It ain't necessarily so.

Posted by: blasmaic | April 13, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I'll be darned, the facts get in the way of another Kumar smear job. Amazing..

Posted by: wewintheylose | April 13, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Wait, I thought this was about race? What happened to that angle?

And everyone seems to forget this applies to nonviolent felons, not all felons. These nonviolent crimes are things such as bribery, fraud and white collar crime. Not murder, rape, kidnapping, etc. I'll stereotype and say that I'm guessing many of these nonviolent felons are high school graduates capable of writing an essay.

Posted by: HokieDoke | April 13, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

And why isn't this headline/front page like your other entries accusing the Governor of racism?

Posted by: HokieDoke | April 13, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

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