Rights Restoration

Previous Work

Advancement Project has fought alongside Virginia community members and groups for automatic restoration since 2003.

Timeline of our work:

2003-2004

  • Advancement Project created its first version of “Virginia Guide to Restoration of Voting Rights,” a primary resource for completing the restoration process. Advancement Project also led three clemency assistance workshops sponsored by community advocates, including two workshops in Roanoke with Total Action against Poverty (TAP), and another in Norfolk with Skilled Training Employment Placement Upward Progress (STEP-UP).
  • At this time three other community groups, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) in Arlington, Virginia CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) in Alexandria, and Catholic Charities Prison Ministries of Virginia were distributing AP materials to inform affected community members and their families about the opportunity to restore their civil rights.

2004-2007

  • Advancement Project launched the Virginia Clemency Campaign Initiative, a strategic effort designed to pressure then Governor Mark Warner to issue an executive order granting blanket automatic restoration. The effort was strategically focused on highlighting the system’s barriers through a sharp increase in the number of applications.
  • Advancement Project continued to distribute guides, host workshops, train advocates to assist disenfranchised citizens, track the number of applications submitted and approved, and understand the major practical and legal obstacles to re-enfranchisement within the current system in collaboration with four community partners—Northern Virginia CURE, Richmond Community Action Program, STEP-UP, and TAP.
  • At the end of Governor Warner’s term, he had cleared all of the petitions in his docket, and abolished the rule requiring people serving suspended terms to become eligible upon the end of their suspended terms (instead of the prison terms).
  • AP mounted yet more pressure on the new Governor, Tim Kaine, by gaining support from political stakeholders, including civil rights leaders, congressional members, labor officials, clergy members, academics, other influential policy-makers, who urged for an executive order. These efforts culminated in a January 10, New York Times editorial, advising Governor Kaine to act. Though Governor Kaine continued to process applications at a record-pace, he refused to issue an executive order.

2007-2008

  • Advancement Project and local partners continued to press then Governor Kaine to sign an executive order through increased applications and strategic communications, including public service announcements, opinion editorials, and radio appearances. Governor Kaine ultimately never signed an automatic restoration executive order.  As some community advocates have said, Governor Kaine’s failure to act was a “missed opportunity.”

2008-now

  • In May 2013, local leaders had a major victory when Gov. Bob McDonnell announced his executive action granting automatic restoration for people with “non-violent” convictions. An estimated 100,000 people or more are now eligible for rights restoration through the Governor.
  • Until January 2014, Advancement Project supported the work the work of organizers, many of whom have their rights restored, hosted direct assistance and political education events. Local advocates continue the work of ensuring that Governor McCauliff’s administration and the Virginia General Assembly make rights restoration a priority issue.