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The McDonnell administration moved quickly to streamline rights restoration.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
As promised, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration moved swiftly to establish a process for automatically restoring the civil rights of non-violent felons who have completed their sentencing, probation and restitution obligations.
And the administration demonstrated good faith by working with civil rights organizations to make as many people as possible eligible for the new process it unveiled on Monday. McDonnell wisely decided to classify most burglary and breaking-and-entering offenses as nonviolent crimes eligible for rights restoration.
McDonnell announced May 29 that he would use his executive authority to make a needlessly cumbersome process virtually automatic, opening the door for 10,000 Virginians to regain their right to vote, serve on a jury, seek public office or serve as a notary public by January. But because the administration must restore rights on an individual basis to satisfy state constitutional requirements, the new, improved process won’t be easy for everyone.
Virginia does not have a comprehensive list of the names and addresses of non-violent felons who are no longer in the legal or correctional systems. So many individuals who long ago paid their debt but never applied to regain their rights will have to take the important first step and contact the state. The secretary of the commonwealth has created an online contact form and a telephone hotline for offenders to use to initiate the rights restoration process. An advertising and outreach effort also will be implemented with the help of stakeholder groups.
McDonnell and Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly have gone to great lengths to streamline the rights restoration process and lower, if not remove, bureaucratic barriers. They have laid a foundation for future governors to build upon, if they choose. Better yet, the General Assembly can initiate a constitutional amendment to make the process automatic and no longer subject to a governor’s whim.
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