Virginia is one of a few states that does not automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have served their time. State law prohibits McDonnell or the General Assembly from passing sweeping legislation that would restore the civil rights — which includes the right to vote and serve on a jury — to all former felons. Instead, the governor must approve applications on an individual basis.
The process has proved slow at best. McDonnell has restored the rights of less than 5,000 former felons out of about 350,000 eligible people.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that McDonnell plans to speed up the restoration process by eliminating the application process for non-violent former felons. Effective July 15, once the administration proves that a felon has served their time, they will automatically send them a letter indicating that they can vote.
Under current policy, there is a two-year waiting period before a felon who has served their time can even apply, and even then the governor does not have to approve the application.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly told the paper that between now and July 15 her office will process its current applications using the new criteria, “so it should go very quickly.”
Perry is a News Writer for Talking Points Memo based in Washington D.C. Prior to TPM, she was a reporter-research at The New Republic and worked for her hometown paper, The Miami Herald. Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.