Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli released a committee report Tuesday on how Virginia can restore voting rights to former felons and called for the state to expedite its current process, a major shift from his position as a state senator when he consistently voted against efforts to create a constitutional amendment automatically granting the restoration of those rights.
Virginia is one of just a few states that does not automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have served their time. But, as the attorney general's Rights Restoration Advisory Committee's report found, restoring voting rights in Virginia can be tricky: neither the governor nor the state's legislative branch can automatically restore the voting rights to all former felons. Instead, the governor must restore voting rights on an individual basis.
An estimated 350,000 Virginians are unable to vote because they have been convicted of a felony. Gov. Bob McDonnell--who has restored a record number of felons' rights--has granted just about 4,400 people the right to vote.
"I believe we need a simpler way for individuals who want to return to their place in society to be given a second chance and regain their civil rights that were lost through a felony conviction," Cuccinelli said during a news conference Tuesday, the RTD reports.
Cuccinelli suggested teaming up with community groups to help people through the restoration process. He also said that he had a "change in heart" on the issue in recent years, but Democrats are accusing the Republican gubernatorial candidate of simply playing politics during an election year.
Cuccinelli supported McDonnell's unsuccessful effort this year to pass a constitutional amendment to automatically grant ex-felons voting rights.