From Southern Studies:
n May, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced a historic win for voting rights: the automatic restoration of those rights for former nonviolent felony offenders on an individualized basis. It was a few steps short of what voting rights advocates have been calling for, which is full automatic rights restoration for all former felons, but they acknowledged it was a big step forward.
All McDonnell, a Republican, left out of his May announcement was how exactly he was going to do it. After consulting with a number of stakeholder organizations invested in helping the formerly incarcerated, McDonnell this week unveiled the how.
The biggest problem with restoring rights on a person-by-person basis is finding all of the Virginians with nonviolent felonies to inform them of their new voter status.
“We could easily find the felons who were currently in the system or who had previously expressed an interest in getting their rights back,” said Virginia Commonwealth Secretary Janet Kelly in a statement. “However, there is no accurate comprehensive database of felons who are not currently in the legal or corrections system and have been released from probation, and the stakeholder group helped us to find creative solutions to meet that challenge.”
Failing to locate and inform people about their new voter eligibility could lead to continued disenfranchisement — eligible voters failing to register because they think they are ineligible. It could also result in inaccurate claims of voter fraud, as I found in Florida last year.
In addition, the state reclassified certain crimes labeled as “violent” felonies — like statutory burglary and breaking and entering — as nonviolent so that more can take advantage of the restoration. Information about the rest of the voting rights restoration process can be found here: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1895