RICHMOND, Va. -- There were more questions than answers at a Town Hall meeting Tuesday night about efforts by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.
The meeting was held at Fifth Street Baptist Church and hosted by Delegate Jennifer McClellan.
People who attended the meeting seemed thankful that the Governor is trying to restore voting rights, yet frustrated that his office does not have a process yet to quickly restore rights.
“I got my certificate so now I’m thinking what is the certificate for?” Gilbert Howard, a convicted felon who served his time, said.
Howard received that voter certificate when he registered to vote under an executive order made by McAuliffe granting felons who served their time the right to vote.
But, now that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled the order unconstitutional, he does not know what’s going on, and he showed up to the Town Hall wanting answers.
“This is just up in the air right now,” Howard said.
Virginia’s Governor can personally sign off on former felons’ right to vote individually, and after the court’s decision, Governor McAuliffe said he would personally do that within two weeks.
But, those two weeks have come and gone and nobody’s rights have been restored.
“I’m going to ask for your patience a little longer…we haven’t put any processes in place for moving forward,” Virginia’s Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kelly Thomasson, told the audience at the Town Hall.
Thomasson said the Governor’s office is actively working to restore rights, and right now they are prioritizing the 13,000 who registered to vote after the order was issued.
“We will complete action on the restoration of rights for these individuals soon,” Thomasson said.
Republican Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-72nd District), who supports the court’s decision, said it’s clear the Governor is not well-versed in Virginia law, and did not realize individually restoring people’s rights is very time consuming.
“Just his inexperience is showing. We’ve seen it on a number of fronts. He and his staff have been inexperienced,” Delegate Massie said.
Thomasson said anyone who has questions about voting rights should call the voting rights registration office at (804) 692-0104.