RICHMOND, Va. — A new resource is available for Virginia felons seeking to have their civil rights restored.
The Advancement Project has released its Virginia Civil Rights Restoration Guide, which helps felons navigate the steps the state has established to restore their voting rights and other civil rights. The Advancement Project has worked on the issue for the past decade.
This summer, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration outlined a streamlined process for non-violent felons to recapture their rights. McDonnell has said up to 100,000 disenfranchised felons ultimately could be added to the voter rolls and regain the right to serve on a jury or hold political office. The Sentencing Project, a rights advocacy group, estimated that about 350,000 Virginians remained disenfranchised in 2010.
In Virginia, only the governor can restore a felon’s civil rights. McDonnell accelerated the process after taking office in 2010 and has now restored the rights of more than 5,000 felons, more than any previous administration.
The Republican governor unsuccessfully urged the 2013 General Assembly to approve a constitutional amendment allowing automatic restoration of rights after a felon has completed his sentence — a change traditionally championed by Democrats. After the proposal was rejected, he implemented the new process. It still requires the governor to act on each felon individually, but non-violent felons no longer have to wait two years and then apply to have their rights restored. Offenders convicted of violent felonies still have a five-year waiting period and must apply.
Four additional employees were hired to work on rights restoration in the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.
The new guide offered by the Advancement Project includes eligibility checklists for both the automatic process and the five-year application. It also has copies of all required forms, the rules for paying off court costs, contact numbers for circuit courts and probation and parole offices, and a voter registration application to be completed once rights are restored.
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