State Watch

Northam says he's restored voting rights of 10,000 former felons

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Tuesday that since he took office, voting rights have been restored to more than 10,000 residents previously convicted of felony charges.

The announcement comes as Northam has faced calls from prominent Democratic politicians in Virginia and elsewhere to resign after he admitted he wore blackface to a dance party during college.

"I believe in second chances and making our Commonwealth more open and accessible to all," Northam said in a statement released by his office.

"Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy," he added.

According to the figures released by Northam's office, 10,992 Virginians have had their rights restored, including the right to serve on a jury and hold public office, since he took office last year.

"This is an important achievement that marks my administration's unwavering commitment to fairness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice," Northam added in his statement.

The announcement comes as Northam and other top Virginia leaders have found themselves embroiled in scandal.

Northam has faced backlash in recent weeks for a photo that surfaced from his medical school yearbook depicting one man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes. Northam later said he believed he was not in the photo, but admitted at a press conference that he had worn blackface on another occasion.

Along with the governor, Virginia's attorney general admitted to wearing blackface during college. Meanwhile, the state's Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) faces accusations of rape and sexual assault from two women.

Northam has vowed to remain in office and focus on issues of racial justice for the remainder of his term.

- Updated 12:14 p.m.

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