The change that Gov. Youngkin made that affects former felon's voting rights

Posted at 9:43 PM, Mar 24, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Restoration of voting rights are no longer automatic for felons who complete their time in Virginia.

The move is a shift from the past two Virginia governor's policies where they were restored automatically to some inmates once their sentences were complete.

The Constitution of Virginia only allows the governor to restore civil rights. This policy was changed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration, instead tasking Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay Coles James to carry out the changes.

In a letter, James said she works to ensure that the application and deliberation of the process are legal and fair. She said they worked with the Secretary of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections to make sure the application is provided and explained when felons are discharged.

Jennifer Dalton said the action is taking steps back. Dalton advocates for those who are currently and formerly incarcerated through her organization Ignite Justice.

She said the move will create a lot of confusion for people.

"Less people are going to be able to navigate the process without help. It's harder and it's going to disenfranchise voters," Dalton said.

Dalton, along with the Virginia NAACP, takes issue that there are no clear criteria for the approval of these rights.

A spokesperson for Youngkin did not directly address what the guidelines were, however, they said each application is considered on an individual basis according to the law.

"Restoration of rights are assessed on an individual basis according to the law and take into consideration the unique elements of each situation, practicing grace for those who need it and ensuring public safety for our community and families," the statement said.

They added that the governor firmly believes in the importance of second chances for Virginians who have made mistakes but are working to move forward as active members of our citizenry.

Those looking for more information about the restoration of voting rights can visit this website.

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