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Posted at 5:45 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Black caucus disappointed after House kills proposals to restore rights to felons

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus expressed disappointment Tuesday that a House of Delegates subcommittee killed all proposed constitutional amendments that would have automatically restored civil rights to non-violent felons.

A subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee defeated amendments 5-1 Monday that would have allowed residents who had served sentences and paid fines to vote, serve on juries and run for public office.

"The decision made by this subcommittee has once again denied the civil rights of individuals who have paid their debt to society,'' Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) said. "Unfortunately, we have to wait another two years to make this proposal again."

"Citizens deserve a second chance once they have done all that the state has asked them to do for restitution of a non-violent offense,'' Del. Onzlee Ware (D-Roanoke) said. "Why must the punishment continue?"

Under Virginia's Constitution, residents convicted of a felony automatically lose the right to vote, serve on a jury or own a gun. The governor can restore voting rights to those who he thinks have redeemed themselves. About 300,000 felons in Virginia who have served their time have not had their rights restored.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R)is on track to restore voting rights to more felons than either of his Democratic predecessors after revamping the state's process, which included shaving the time nonviolent felons must wait to apply after serving their sentences from three years to two years. But some legislators still prefer an automatic process.

By Anita Kumar  | February 1, 2011; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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Virginia is only one of two states that does not automatically restore voting rights in one form or another. The other is Kentucky. Clearly this will continue to be an uphill battle until we turn over some of the House members who are long past their expiration date. It's imperative to the progress of the commonwealth to have more legislators who have made the transition into the 21st century.

Posted by: csread | February 1, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Virginia has always been this way and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There will always be a need for Trashmen, Street Sweepers and Dishwashers. It never has been and will never be a Second chance State.

Posted by: RyanHalen | February 1, 2011 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Most felons are democrats, so giving thousands of voters to that party is not in the best interest of the GOP.

Posted by: cr10 | February 1, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The State of Virginia has always been this way and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Restoration of Rights for Felons violent or non-violent would greatly decrease the number of Trash Collectors, Dishwashers and Street Sweepers in the Commonwealth. Virginia has never been, and will never be, a Second Chance State.

Posted by: RyanHalen | February 1, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

That is the most absurd argument against restoration of rights that I've ever heard: that it would "greatly decrease the number of Trash Collectors, Dishwashers and Street Sweepers?" Are you saying that all of those folks are ex-felons and that if they could vote, they'd quit their jobs? Does this mean that the 48 other states with automatic restoration have a severe shortage of sanitation workers?

Posted by: franko2 | February 2, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

You are quite correct franko2. The argument would be absurd if I was in fact arguing against Restoration of rights. Sarcasm has never been my strong point and I shall endeavor to make it more noticeable in my future posts.

Posted by: RyanHalen | February 3, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

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