By Bre Payton | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Virginia is in the process of restoring voting rights for felons, but convicted criminals must wait for their chance.
Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who completed their sentences, have been released from parole and have paid all fines.
Felons who are soon to be eligible for restoration, or have recently expressed interested in regaining their right to vote — called present felons — must wait for their names to be added to a State Board of Elections list before voting. The governor’s office will update that list weekly.
Felons now eligible to vote — past felons — must identify as a former felon.
The governor’s office cannot automatically restore the rights of felons no longer in the correctional system, as no accurate or comprehensive database exists.
Past felons have the option of calling a special hotline or submitting a request by mail, fax or online. The online options will not be available until Aug. 1.
The governor’s office worked with advocacy groups such as the Advancement Project to develop the framework for the self-identification process.
The Advancement Project is working with the Virginia New Majority, a civic-engagement group aimed at getting progressives to show up at the polls to ensure newly eligible voters are registered in time for the November election.
Virginia has an estimated 100,000 felons eligible to regain voting rights.
“We are pleased to hear the governor has committed sufficient resources to automatically restore rights to the 500 to 700 eligible people completing their sentences every month,” said Janet Kelly, secretary of the Commonwealth.
Historically, policies aimed at automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons, such as McDonnell’s, do not survive administration changes and can lead to confusion at the polls if the respective changes are not made clear.
Bre Payton is an intern for the Virginia Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact her at email@example.com
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