Saturday, January 17, 2009

Expanding democracy in Virginia

It is long past time for Virginia to end the unreasonable disenfranchisement of felons who have served their time. The Jim Crow era law is one of the most punitive in the nation making restoration of a convicted felon's voting rights extremely difficult. Only Virginia and Kentucky permanently take voting rights from every individual convicted of a felony. Currently, over 300,000 are disenfranchised under Virginia law. Two states, Vermont and Maine, never take away voting rights. Thirty eight states currently restore voting rights to former felons on completion of jail time and parole or probation. Eight others restore voting rights to most felons, excluding only those who are convicted of the most heinous crimes.
Early on the morning of January 19, a subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections committee will consider several constitutional amendments to modify Virginia law on restoration of voting rights. Three resolutions - HJ 623 (Dance), HJ 664 (Morrissey), and HJ 677 (BaCote) would restore voting rights to all former felons. Two others - HJ 628 (Ware) and HJ 656 (Tyler) would restore rights only to those convicted of nonviolent felonies. More info on the bills can be found on Richmond Sunlight.
Making Virginia law more fair and more democratic is an ongoing process. It is time to end permanent disenfranchisement. Convicted felons who have served their time and been punished for their crime should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, to become participating members of their community. It is good for them, good for our communities, and good for democracy.
Learn more about the current Virginia law and how you can help make our commonwealth more democratic. You'll have to act fast to contact members of the Constitutional Subcommittee before their meeting on Monday. The members, linked to their contact info, are:

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