Although the General Assembly this year shot down one opportunity for Governor McDonnell to fulfill a campaign promise to restore the voting and civil rights of nonviolent felons, the Governor has found a way to sidestep lawmakers and make progress toward that goal. A day after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli unveiled his advisory report on the issue, McDonnell announced his own initiative.
"You know one moment in time can change your entire destiny. One bad decision can spiral your life down. But one good decision can turn that thing around. And today is a good day for Virginia."
Radio talk show host and convicted felon Lisa Kratz Thomas says she's been waiting for this day for many years: an expedited process for NONVIOLENT felons to restore their rights automatically once they've met specific conditions. The Governor said those include payment of all court costs, fines and restitution, and completion of their sentence, probation or parole with no pending FELONY charges.
"But once those dues are fully paid that'll be a clear avenue to reintegrate you with your full dignity, fully back into society."
The Attorney General advised the Governor that the state Constitution does NOT permit him to simply restore the rights of everyone at once--but, instead, this and future administrations can do so on an individual basis. Many supporters of this decision applaud the Governor's actions but say they will still push for complete restoration of rights for all felons.