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98,000 felons waiting for voting-rights restoration

By   /   October 22, 2013  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 5 of 7 in the series Free to Vote in Virginia

By Bre Payton | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

Bethany Schmidt

About 98,000 eligible felons are left hanging with the automated restoration of rights process.

PURCELLVILLE — More than 1,500 have gained the right to vote in Virginia since Gov. Bob McDonnell automated the restoration of rights process July 15, but 98,000 people with felony records are are still waiting.

Virginia has an estimated 100,000 non-violent felons eligible for automatic restoration of rights, but just a fraction — 1,577 — benefitted from the automated process.


No accurate or comprehensive database exists.

The Secretary of the Commonwealth‘s office automatically added to the State Board of Elections felons who became eligible to vote after July 15, but the SOC’s office had no database of “past felons”  — felons who became eligible before July 15 — and were unable to add their names to the SBE’s list without help. Past felons would have to contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth via a special hotline or submit a request by mail, fax or online. The online options weren’t available until Aug. 1.

The Advancement Project, an advocacy group that worked with McDonnell’s office to develop the automated process, released a 72-page document Aug. 22 to help ex-felons navigate the complicated process of restoring their rights.

Historically, policies aimed at automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons, such as McDonnell’s, do not survive a change in administrations and can lead to confusion at the polls if the respective changes are not made clear.

Contact Bre Payton at bpayton@watchdog.org or follow her on Twitter@Bre_payton.

Part of 7 in the series Free to Vote in Virginia


Bre formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.og.org