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Virginia governor restores voting rights to former felons

Virginia governor restores voting rights to former felons
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday restored voting and other civil rights to former felons upon completion of their sentence, according an announcement from the governor's office.

The new criteria makes Virginians convicted of felonies eligible to vote immediately upon release from prison, even if they remain on community supervision. 

Northam's executive action reverses previous Virginia law, which stated that anyone convicted of a felony in the state would permanently lose their right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a public notary or carry a firearm.

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Northam's policy change has restored these rights to more than 69,000 Virginians, according to the release.

"Too many of our laws were written during a time of open racism and discrimination, and they still bear the traces of inequity," Northam said.

He added, "We are a Commonwealth that believes in moving forward, not being tied down by the mistakes of our past. If we want people to return to our communities and participate in society, we must welcome them back fully—and this policy does just that."

The move by Northam followed a constitutional amendment approved by the state's 2021 General Assembly session that worked to restore voting and civil rights to formerly incarcerated felons.

An update to Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson's website noted that the changes went into effect immediately, and that former felons looking to restore their firearm rights should contact their local circuit court. 

"Restoring the rights of Virginians who have served their time makes it easier for these men and women to move forward with their lives," Thomasson said.

She concluded her statement, saying, "I am proud of Governor Northam’s initiative to welcome these individuals back into society. All Virginians deserve to have their voices heard, and these changes demonstrate the Northam Administration’s continued commitment to second chances, rehabilitation, and restorative justice."