Gov. Tim Kaine, approaching his last week in office, is facing mounting pressure to restore the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of felons as one of his last acts as governor.
A coalition of religious and civil rights organizations is in talks with Kaine, a Democrat, to issue an executive order to remove the barrier for about 300,000 disenfranchised Virginians before he leaves the job on Jan. 16., as well as to initiate a policy to automatically restore felons’ voting rights after they’re released from prison. The commonwealth and Kentucky are the only states in the union that permanently bar a felon from voting without the direct intervention of the governor.
The incoming governor, Bob McDonnell, said on the campaign trail he believes “rights should be restored to certain nonviolent felons who have met very specific requirements, demonstrated that they have maintained a clean record, and are contributing members of society.” As governor, he said he would speed the review of petitions for voting-rights restoration by nonviolent felons.
The ACLU is buoyed by a recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a voter disenfranchisement law in Washington as a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
[Editors Note: A news story on the recent decision to let prison inmates vote in order to increase the power of non-whites can be read here.]