ACLU urges legislators to support bills to restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have completed their sentencesRichmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia is sending memos and packages of information to Virginia House and Senate members who hold the key to ridding Virginia of a constitutional provision that permanently removes the right to vote from individuals who have committed felonies. Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states in the nation that permanently disfranchise all felons, requiring an act of the Governor to have such rights restored.
There are approximately 300,000 Virginia residents who cannot vote as a result of this law.
A bill has passed a critical subcommittee of the House of Delegates and will be heard at the end of this week by the full committee. In the Senate, a committee has approved two similar voter restoration bills, and the full Senate will be voting on those bills soon. (For more information on the status of bills visit www.restoreourvote.org)
“This is a fundamentally unfair law that denies hundreds of thousands of tax-paying Virginians of their right to vote,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “It is also the last formal vestige of Jim Crow in Virginia, a policy that, like poll taxes and literacy tests, was used to prevent minorities from voting.”
Virginia's felon disfranchisement law, which dates to the Jim Crow era, was adopted expressly for the purpose of suppressing minority voting, and it still disproportionately impacts African Americans. About 50% of the disfranchised voters in Virginia are racial minorities, whereas the state’s minority population is under 30%.
Surveys show that former felons who register to vote are half as likely to commit crimes as those who do not vote.
Reform of Virginia’s felon disfranchisement law requires a constitutional amendment, meaning a resolution must pass this year and again next year, followed by a voter referendum. There are more voter restoration bills in the House and Senate than ever before, and they are receiving more serious attention than they have in many years.
Contact: Kent Willis, 804-644-8022