Voting Is A Right – Not A Privilege

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What Is Voter Disenfranchisement?

Virginia is one of only three states that permanently punishes people convicted of a felony by taking away their right to vote unless the governor individually gives it back – an often long and arduous process. This archaic rule disenfranchises more than 350,000 Virginians who can’t vote but who pay taxes every year. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and should not be a punishment in addition to a criminal sentence.

The Facts

Q.The Facts
A.
  • Broad felony disenfranchisement laws were passed in former confederate states shortly after the Civil War. Virginia passed its version in 1902 with the explicit intent of blocking Black people from the polls and has not substantively changed the law since.
  • Virginia is one of the only three states that still permanently take away a person's right to vote upon a felony conviction unless the governor restores it individually.
    a map of felony disenfranchisement in AMerica
  • Today, Virginia has an incarceration rate of 779 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention and juvenile facilities), which is higher than the national average of 698 per 100,000 people.
    bar chart of VA incarceration rates at the top
  • Every year, our criminal legal systems add roughly 12,000 people to the more than 350,000 people still disenfranchised. If the governor continues to restore people’s rights at this pace, it will take more than 30 years to give everyone their right to vote back. Gov. Ralph Northam’s actions since his inauguration has re-enfranchised 33,000 people; that’s about 9,000 more people than have been disenfranchised during his term in office.
  • While one in 20 non-Black Virginians are disenfranchised, one in seven Black Virginians are – largely because Black people are over-policed, subjected to harsher sentences and felonized at a higher rate. These racial disparities continue in the process of rights restoration: White people have their voting rights restored at a greater rate than people of color; in 2016 Governor Terry  McAuliffe restored the rights of 175,000 people, 52% were white.
    pie chart that shows 52% of people who got their rights restored in 2016 were white

What We Want

Q.What We Want
A.

While the number of disenfranchised has increased year over year during the last four administrations, individual restoration by governors is not enough.

To ensure that every Virginia citizen 18 and over has the right to vote – permanently – we want the Virginia General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment that guarantees that right.

And, we want you to join the fight.

WATCH: Tom Morello supported our effort to guarantee the right to vote in a video from 2019.

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What You Can Do

Q.What You Can Do
A.
  • Write an email to members of the Senate Privileges and Election Committee by clicking here
  • Sign a petition urging your Virginia legislators to support the Right to Vote for all by clicking here
  • Follow and share our social media.
  • Until we pass an amendment, if you know someone eligible to have their rights restored, share this link with them: https://www.restore.virginia.gov/