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June 23, 2015

Civil Liberties Group Continues Fight to Eliminate Felon Disenfranchisement Law

Richmond, VA – Following requests from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia to Governor McAuliffe and former Governor McDonnell, today the McAuliffe administration announced the removal of the requirement that individuals with a felony conviction pay their fees, fines, and restitution costs before becoming eligible to have their voting rights restored.

“The right to vote is a fundamental American right – we celebrate Governor McAuliffe’s decision to ensure that people do not lose this right on the basis of a modern day poll tax,” said Hope Amezquita, ACLU of Virginia Staff Attorney and Legislative Counsel. “Nothing in the Governor’s decision takes away the responsibility of Virginians to pay monies owed, it just means that Virginia will no longer condition the fundamental right to vote on financial obligations.”

The ACLU of Virginia has been a constant champion in the fight for restoration of rights and strongly supports all positive efforts to ensure that no Virginian is ever denied the right to vote because of the felon disenfranchisement ban.

“While today’s announcement is an important step forward, many individuals will still be unable to vote because of the Commonwealth’s felon disenfranchisement ban,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The only way to rid Virginia of this Jim Crow era relic is to amend the Constitution of Virginia, something that we are working hard to place on the 2018 ballot. We call on all Virginians to support the repeal of this discriminatory ban.”

The Governor’s announcement also included a policy change that will enable Virginians whose rights were restored to have that noted on their criminal record.