Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

McAuliffe to speed rights restoration

Drug crimes won’t require waiting period as Virginia streamlines procedures

  • Updated
  • 0

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list.

The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly.

In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe wants to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list.

In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.

Last year, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell altered the system to automatically restore rights on an individualized basis once nonviolent felons served their time, paid fines and restitution and met other court-ordered conditions.

Violent felons must currently wait five years after they serve their time and have paid court costs, fines and restitution.

McAuliffe plans to provide a list of the offenses that require a waiting period, collapse the time frame and remove drug crimes from that list, such as drug distribution and drug manufacturing.

“Virginians who have made a mistake and paid their debt to society should have their voting rights restored through a process that is as transparent and responsive as possible,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

“These changes will build on the process Virginia has in place to increase transparency for applicants and ensure that we are restoring Virginians’ civil rights quickly and efficiently after they have applied and observed any necessary waiting period.”

McAuliffe has restored the civil rights to more than 800 people since taking office, according to his team.

Civil rights restoration includes the right to vote, hold public office, serve on a jury and serve as a notary public. It does not restore the right to have a firearm.

Virginia is one of eight states that have permanent disenfranchisement for at least some people with criminal convictions, unless government approves individual rights restoration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

There are an estimated 350,000 disenfranchised people in the state, according to The Sentencing Project.

Several groups have advocated for years for changes to the state’s restoration process. The ACLU of Virginia and the NAACP called on McDonnell to take executive action and automatically restore voting rights to ex-offenders, as they had urged governors in the past. The ACLU also advocated for most drug offenses to be classified as nonviolent, under the previous administration.

Earlier this year, a “Mobile Justice Tour,” hosted by the Advancement Project and other groups returned to Virginia to address the restoration of rights issue, among other things.

McAuliffe instructed his secretary of the commonwealth to review the restoration of rights policy and recommend ways to make it more “open and transparent,” according to McAuliffe’s office, and more changes could be in the works. (804) 649-6812 Twitter: @omeola


Related to this story

Most Popular

Several property owners in Virginia are suing the state Department of Wildlife Resources over a state law that allows hunters to retrieve their hunting dogs from private property. A number of states allow hunters to retrieve their dogs without permission from property owners under certain circumstances. But Virginian’s law says hunters are allowed to retrieve dogs even when the property owner has specifically denied access. The property owners allege that allowing hunters to go on their property without permission amounts to an uncompensated taking of their land. However, the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance says the vast majority of hunters are considerate of land owners and want to continue Virginia's centuries-old tradition of hunting with dogs.

Police in Virginia are investigating a fatal shooting inside an aerospace company plant in Hampton. Hampton police said officers responded to a call for a shooting at Howmet Aerospace shortly after midnight Saturday. A man was declared dead at the scene, police said in a news release. Police said they are investigating the shooting as a homicide. The man’s name was not immediately released. The Virginian-Pilot reports that Howmet Aerospace said in a statement that the shooting was “a tremendous shock” to its employees and “appears to be the result of an outside of work dispute.” The company said it has canceled all Saturday and Sunday shifts.

Police say a 29-year-old Virginia man has been charged with second-degree murder in a fatal shooting inside an aerospace company plant. Hampton police said Alonzo Trower Jr., of Hampton, has also been charged with use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and shooting in an occupied building. Officers responded to a call for a shooting at Howmet Aerospace shortly after midnight Saturday. Police said a man was declared dead at the scene. Police did not immediately release the victim’s identity. Trower was being held at the Hampton City Jail. It could not be determined Sunday whether he has an attorney.

Virginia’s information technology agency has lost its third high-level manager since January, when Gov. Glenn Youngkin replaced its top executive. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports acting Chief Operating Officer Demetrias Rodgers resigned last week from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency and will be leaving May 20. An agency spokeswoman told the newspaper VITA appreciates his contributions. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fairfax County officials have rebuffed a request from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to establish a security perimeter around the neighborhoods of Supreme Court justices living in the county who have faced protests outside their homes. Youngkin, a Republican, made the request Wednesday in a letter to the county board of supervisors. He said such protests should not be allowed. Judges have seen home protests following the leak of a draft opinion that would overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision. But Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said Youngkin's request is too drastic and would infringe on protesters' First Amendment rights. 

A federal prosecutor says three members of a Virginia family have been found guilty of conspiring to coerce another family member to perform domestic services. Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, says the three were convicted Friday of conspiracy to commit forced labor. Court records and evidence showed the victim was verbally assaulted and physically abused over 12 years. The victim is a native of Pakistan who married into the family. She had temporary immigration status in the U.S., but prosecutors say one of the defendants took her immigration documents and also threatened her with deportation if she didn’t obey their demands. 

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News