Virginia Governor’s Endorsement Of Rights Restoration Earns Praise From Civil Rights Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2013

Contact: Rich Robinson, Advancement Project at 202-728-9557 or rrobinson@advancementproject.org

Virginia GOVERNOR’S endorsement of rights restoration earns praise from civil rights group

In State of Commonwealth Address, McDonnell Urges That Citizens with Felony Convictions be Automatically Granted the Right to Vote

WASHINGTON – Advancement Project today commends Governor Bob McDonnell for announcing his support for automatic restoration for citizens with non-violent felony convictions in his annual State of the Commonwealth address. Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, and several community partners, including S.O.B.E.R. Fellowship Home, Bridging the Gap, Resources and Information for Helping the Disadvantaged (R.I.H.D.), and advocate, Mercedies Harris, have worked closely with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Janet Kelly, to improve the current rights restoration process while advocating for automatic rights restoration.  Thanks to the additional resources Kelly’s office has devoted to this issue, Gov. McDonnell has restored the civil rights of more citizens than any other governor in history. More than 4,400 Virginians have regained their civil rights during his term.

“We applaud the governor for his leadership in ensuring that all Virginians can participate in our democracy” said Edgardo Cortes, director of Advancement Project’s Virginia Voting Rights Restoration Campaign.  “We hope his announcement is the first step in expanding participation at the ballot box. If the General Assembly does not heed the governor's call, we will urge the governor to use his power of executive order to restore voting rights to all of our citizens who have paid their debt to society.”

“The governor has embraced the principle of redemption and the legislature should follow his lead,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co director of Advancement Project. “Evidence shows that voting reduces the likelihood of recidivism, helping to strengthen our families and communities.  These are citizens often trying to rebuild their lives. They live and work in our neighborhoods.  They pay taxes. They should not be denied the ability to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”  

 Virginia is one of only four states that take away civil rights from citizens convicted of a felony for life. Forty six other states, including most southern states, such as Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, automatically restore voting rights after citizens convicted of a felony have paid their debt to society. Approximately seven percent of Virginia’s voting age population - 350,000 people - cannot vote due to a felony conviction. African Americans are disproportionately impacted, with one in five denied their right to vote in the Commonwealth.

In his address, Gov. McDonnell urged lawmakers to support proposed rights restoration constitutional amendments introduced by Delegates Greg Habeeb and Peter Farrell. Advancement Project and its community partners, including Virginia New Majority, have been working with legislators to garner support for all proposals that move Virginia towards automatic restoration of rights for all individuals with a prior felony conviction.

For more information or to contact voters who are either trying to get their rights restored or have successfully restored their voting rights, please contact Rich Robinson at 202-728-9557 or rrobinson@advancementproject.org

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