The Virginia Senate passed a resolution 30 to 10 today to automatically restore the rights of non-violent offenders who have finished the terms of their sentence.
Aligning with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s call to restore the votes of those that have paid their debts to society earlier this month, Virginia Senate members voted 30 to 10 to automatically restore voting rights to people with non-violent felony convictions.
The Senate resolution is the first step towards amending the Virginia Constitution. Once the resolution passes the House it would continue to the General Assembly and then to the ballot.
“Felony disenfranchisement and the restoration of rights have become a part of the national discussion to expand Democracy for all,” said Rev. Nathaniel Young, President of the Virginia NAACP State Conference. “We commend Virginia Senators on following the leadership of Gov. McDonnell and other states who are addressing these laws to expand the vote. The House of Delegates must follow suit.”
According to data provided by the Administration’s office, the governor has restored the votes of more than 4,000 returning citizens since the start of his administration in 2010.
“Gov. McDonnell and his Administration recognize that returning citizens are neighbors, siblings, parents, employers, and tax payers,” said Jotaka Eaddy, NAACP Senior Director of Voting Rights. “Now, the Senate is sending a signal that the state legislature might not be far behind.”
In October, the state restored the voting rights of Kemba Smith-Pradia, a leading advocate in the fight for voting rights of former offenders, who was granted executive clemency and released in 2000.
“The governor and parts of the state legislature are taking steps in the right direction to restore the votes of people that are citizens in society,” said Kemba Smith-Pradia, Founder and Executive Director, Kemba Smith Foundation. “However, Gov. McDonnell, the NAACP, advocates and other leading organizations cannot stop fighting until all citizens who have paid their debts to society are guaranteed the right to vote.”
The NAACP and NAACP Virginia State Conference have been longtime advocates for automatic restoration in Virginia. For years, NAACP leadership has met and continues to meet with the governor, state legislatures, and key staff on issues surrounding the expansion of voting rights.
In October, the NAACP launched the Restore the Votes Campaign which aims to restore the rights for millions of citizens formerly convicted of felonies. The campaign was launched following the NAACP’s delegation at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the visit, the delegation held a panel discussion on felony disenfranchisement and the attack on voting rights in states across the nation.