RICHMOND, Va. – In light of the recent lawsuit by Virginia’s Republican leadership to block Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order to restore the rights to 206,000 ex-felons, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in partnership with the Virginia State Conference NAACP, Virginia AFL-CIO, the ACLU of Virginia and New Virginia Majority will host four Voices for the Vote Rallies across the Commonwealth. These organizations stand as voices for the people in the fight against voter suppression.
“The Governor’s action matched our hopes and exceeded our expectations. The ACLU of Virginia has urged three straight governors to use their executive and constitutional power to restore the rights of all Virginians who have served their time and completed probation and parole. In our most recent most recent letter to Gov. McAuliffe on March 7, we pointed to ‘the significant and continuing adverse impact of the racial disparities of our racial justice system’ as one of the most important reasons to let Virginians who have paid the price for their actions once again be a part of the democratic process and enjoy the full rights of citizenship,” stated ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga.
“Republicans in our General Assembly should be ashamed of themselves for behaving this way,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, president of the Virginia AFL-CIO. “Voting rights are the most basic, fundamental core of a strong democracy and their actions to disenfranchise voters are simply the latest move in a political game to silence the voices of hard-working Virginians. The people affected by Governor McAuliffe’s executive order have paid their debts and deserve the opportunity to fully participate in our democracy upon reentry into civilian life.”
“The disenfranchisement of people who have already served sentences for prior mistakes was an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority. “Instead of celebrating the progress our state has taken to restore the fundamental right to vote for the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who have repaid their debts to society, conservative lawmakers are trying to send our state back to its discriminatory past. By championing an undemocratic legal effort to limit ballot access – General Assembly Republicans are ignoring the will of the public they represent. The majority of Virginians – 63 percent – agree that Governor McAuliffe made the right decision by restoring voting rights for people with prior felony convictions. It is our leaders’ responsibility to uphold the values of an inclusive and just democracy – this lawsuit represents exactly the opposite. Virginians deserve better. Democracy demands better.”
Linda Thomas, president of the State Conference of the NAACP states, “We are disappointed by the recent actions of some in the Republican leadership in the Commonwealth of Virginia who have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the recent executive order issued by our Governor Terry McAuliffe to restore the rights of more than 200,000 citizens. The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has been persistent in its efforts of advocating for the restoration of rights to those who have paid their debt to society. Despite those who would turn the issues of voter rights and voter suppression into a partisan battleground, we will continue to fight this systematic erosion of enfranchisement.
“In this moment, where we find our spirits bolstered by United States Supreme Court decision to dismiss the GOP appeal against the newly drawn Congressional Districts; we will neither ignore, nor will we forget that our progress is still threatened by thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression as a means to partisan political gains. We vow to be unwavering in our commitment to insure that the right to participate in democracy is never suppressed, threatened or denied. And we stand boldly with those who share these views.”
“The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus is proud to stand with our partners in this effort to protect the vote of citizens of the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe was within his constitutional authority to restore the rights of 206,000 Virginians who have paid their debt to society and who now should be fully integrated into the communities in which they are now living and working as taxpaying citizens. Voting is a fundamental right of a democracy, not a privilege to be weakened by suppressive efforts designed to undermine the power of the people,” said state Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton), chair of the caucus.
Dates & Locations for the Rallies:
Hampton Roads Rally
Wednesday, June 1, 6-7 p.m.
Hampton City Hall plaza
22 Lincoln St.
Saturday, June 4, 1-2 p.m.
Tabernacle Zion Church
602 S. Hicks St.
Central Virginia Rally
Saturday, June 4, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Pocohontas Island Black History Museum
224 Witten Street
Saturday, June 4, 1-2 p.m.
Mt. Zion AME Church
2128 Melrose Ave. NW
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