A law that expanded voting rights for convicted felons in Virginia could soon be wiped out by Republicans in the state legislature.
In April 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed off on an executive order that granted felons in Virginia the right to vote after completing their prison sentences and meeting certain requirements. The bold move was made at the same time that the Obama Administration was encouraging states to take measures to decrease recidivism rates and generally encourage convicted felons who have paid their dues to become valuable, meaningful contributors to society.
The Virginia law affected 206,000 convicted felons in the state and drew significant praise from a number of legal and political observers. For years, many people have criticized laws that bar felons from voting as a form of racism because they disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. Statistically speaking, people of color are more likely to be arrested for crimes in the US, which means that fewer minorities are then able to cast votes in elections that determine who their leaders will be
State Lawmakers Ask Court to Weigh In
Now GOP senators in Virginia has asked the Virginia Supreme Court to decide whether the governor overstepped his bounds and went too far in passing the sweeping executive order. If the court ultimately decides in favor of the Republican legislators who are pushing to overturn the ambitious executive order, it would leave the 5,800 convicted felons who have successful registered to vote since April 2016 feeling quite powerless: they would legally have the right to vote but would be unable to actually exercise that right in the upcoming general election.
Beyond that, more than 200,000 convicted felons in Virginia could be affected going forward, as they would no longer be able to take steps to regain their voting rights for future elections.
Of course, there has been a great deal of anger and outrage expressed by the people who would have their voting rights stripped in such a scenario. For instance, one woman who had her voting rights restored by the recent law said that she found it “appalling” that her name could suddenly be removed from voting registers in advance of the November election.
For additional information, read the Gawker.com article, “Virginia Republicans May Strip the Right to Vote from 200,000 People Who Just Got It Back.”
A person convicted of a felony in New Jersey will lose their voting rights until successful completion of their sentence, including jail time, parole, and/or probation. If you have been charged with a crime in NJ, you need to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer immediately. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC can help you fight your criminal charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us now to schedule a free consultation about your case.