Gov. McAuliffe restores rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Monday afternoon that he and his team have begun restoring the civil rights of former Virginia felons in compliance with an order by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Speaking at a press conference at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in Richmond, the Governor announced that he has already restored the rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote before the court’s ruling stripped them of their rights.

The Governor also announced the detailed process he will use to evaluate the cases of individuals who may qualify to have their rights restored based on the objective criteria he has established.

“Restoring the rights of Virginians who have served their time and live, work and pay taxes in our communities is one of the pressing civil rights issues of our day,” McAuliffe said. “I have met these men and women and know how sincerely they want to contribute to our society as full citizens again.

McAuliffe says the process fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before him.

“It also reflects the clear authority the Governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time,” McAuliffe said.

The administration launched a new web portal for Virginians on Monday to access more information about the process and how it impacts them.

“It is my hope that the approach we announced today marks the end of the partisan battles that have been waged over this issue so that every Virginian leader can play a role in welcoming these individuals back to society and building a Commonwealth of greater justice, equality, and opportunity for every family,” McAuliffe said.

One of those in the audience was Kenneth Williams who had his rights restored through the April executive order, had his rights taken away after the Supreme Court ruling, and again had it restored by the governor.

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“I want to take my wife and my family … for the first time in my life and march to the polls,” Williams said.

Williams said it’s been a decade’s long journey to have his rights restored. He said it was frustrating paying taxes without having the right to vote.

“I’ve got a nonprofit organization, I’m married, I’m a trustee of my church and I can’t vote because of what happened 30 years ago,” Williams said.

He says he’s not sure how he will feel when he finally gets to cast his vote.

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“I want to take my wife and my family … for the first time in my life and march to the polls,” Williams said.

“They might be holding me up, I might be in tears being over emotional but I’m going to get there, and I’m going to make that happen this year,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, the governor said each person whose rights are restored will have a signed order with a seal mailed to them that will include a voter registration form.

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