The ACLU of Virginia applauds Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order today that restores, as of today, the voting rights of 206,000 Virginians convicted of felonies but who have completed their sentences.
The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga:
“The Governor’s action today 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 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.
“It is particularly commendable that the Governor included both non-violent and violent ex-offenders in his order, directed the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office to monitor newly eligible persons and restore their rights on a monthly basis, and restated that eligibility is not contingent upon individuals having paid their fines and court costs.
"Governor McAuliffe deserves high praise for significant actions taken before today: 1) restoring the voting rights of more than 18,000 Virginian (more than the previous seven governors combined), 2) smoothing the restoration process for persons convicted of non-violent drug offenses, and 3) eliminating a requirement that court costs and fines be repaid before restoration (something he correctly labeled today ‘a vestige of the poll tax’). Today's executive order reflects the Governor’s recognition that the depth of disenfranchisement in Virginia and its deep roots in Virginia’s Jim Crow past required bolder executive action for progress to be made."