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overnor McAuliffe’s recent restora­

tion of political rights to felons

who have completed their sentence

is the right thing to do, if we believe in

the redemptive value of our criminal

justice system. I applaud the governor for

restoring those political rights to some

206,000 felons in Virginia, many of whom

were released from prison years ago.

While each of the affected persons

could apply individually for restoration

of political rights on a case-by-case basis,

the process is unnecessarily laborious and costly – both for the

individual and the state. So the governor rightly said, let’s do this

on a class-wide basis by restoring the political rights to all of those

that have completed their sentence.

This action is not unprecedented as Governor McDonnell did

the same thing for a class of nonviolent felons, although a much

lower number of people were benefitted.

Following this action, Governor McAuliffe saw that he had the

exclusive executive authority under the Constitution of Virginia to

“remove the political disabilities consequent upon conviction.” It

does not say he has to do it on an application-by-application basis;

he can do it on a class-wide basis, as did Governor McDonnell.

The action does not reduce any sentence, much less pardon

any conviction. They must have “completed their sentences” of

incarceration, supervised release, probation and parole. And they

will still have to pay any fine, restitution or costs imposed by

the courts. By restoring political rights on a class basis to those

felons who have completed their sentences, it makes the process of

restoring voting rights more efficient and less costly.

Virginia has a long and troubled history regarding voting

rights, including the poll tax and literacy tests that were struck

down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s. Since 2010, we

By Senator John S. Edwards, 21st Senate District of Virginia

have sadly added new voter suppression devices such as the photo

ID card requirement to voting.

The Republican Party has filed suit over this issue claiming

the restoration must be on a case by case basis. But, the Virginia

constitution does not require restoration only on an individual by

individual basis.

The chief author of the 1971 Constitution of Virginia, A.E.

Dick Howard, professor of law at UVA, has said the governor has

“ample authority” to do so. As a lawyer myself, I believe the basic

rules of constitutional and statutory interpretation clearly support

Professor Howard’s position.

The cause of justice is best served when people who have served

their time can be brought back into the community to participate in

the economic and political life, including having the fundamental

right to vote. That helps them become part of the society again and

benefits society by their voice in our government.

Most states automatically allow felons to vote upon release

from incarceration, probation and parole. Virginia is one of only

12 states that does not automatically allow felons to vote upon

completing their sentences. Absent legislation or a constitutional

amendment, only the Governor can restore this right in Virginia.

Also, there is the sad fact that African-Americans have been

disproportionately impacted by the previous process for restoring

voting rights. This harkens back to the 1902 Virginia Constitution

expressly designed to restrict the voting rights of African-


By restoring the right to vote on a class basis of those who have

completed their sentence, Governor McAuliffe is moving Virginia


Governor McAuliffe’s action does not restore the right of

felons to have legal access to firearms. If they want that right, then

they have to go to court. Federal law further prohibits convicted

felons from possessing guns.

If it is true that

mountains draw

you in, then pack

your bags for

a long stay in

Tazewell County!

The adventure tourism capital of the Appalachians,

Tazewell County is home to the best ATV trails,

motorcycle routes, hiking, biking and other

adventures in the mid Atlantic region.

Aside from adventure tourism, the scenic vistas

in this county are to be matched by none— it is

a photographer’s paradise!



Seeking New Seats

Keep an eye on these Virginia

legislators in the 2016 election!

Senator Tom Garrett

seeking 5th Congressional District

Delegate Monty Mason

seeking 1st Virginia Senate District

Senator Donald McEachin

seeking 4th Congressional District

Delegate Scott Taylor

seeking 2nd Congressional District

Coming in the Fall issue:

Preview of Special Elections


estoration of