"Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen's space."
-- Joe Loya, disenfranchised former felon
Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, proclaims that, prior to the Civil War, African-Americans were almost totally disenfranchised. Even after enactment of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to vote, many states continued to use various methods to prevent African-Americans from voting, including literacy tests, poll taxes, the disenfranchisement of former inmates, intimidation, threats and even violence!
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a new beginning for African-American citizens. For the first time, the federal government required states to comply with the 15th Amendment. However, lifetime disenfranchisement of former felons continues today in FOUR (4) states that includes the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, “The United States is the only democracy in which some people who have served their sentences can still lose their right to vote. Approximately 4.7 million people in the U.S. cannot vote because of a felony conviction.”
Of these 4.7 million people, the Commonwealth of Virginia accounts for over 350,000. These convicted felons, most of whom were convicted of nonviolent offenses, are productive citizens, assets to society, are in our communities, have paid their debts to society, earned a second chance in almostall aspects of their life, yet remain disenfranchised for life. Virginians should be outraged!
Currently in Virginia, all persons convicted of a felony, regardless if the felony was a nonviolent or violent offense and received five, 10, 20 or even 40 years ago, must apply through a lengthy process directly to the governor, who has the sole discretion whether to restore their rights. If the application is denied, the applicant must wait two years to reapply.
Call to Action:
In accordance to Virginia laws the Governor has the power through "executive order" to restore voting rights for former felons and create a process for continuing to restore rights for others as they complete their sentences before he leaves office. Urge him to act now.
Governor Bob McDonnell
P.O. Box 1475 - Richmond, Virginia 23218
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street - Richmond, Virginia 23219
Phone Numbers: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351
TTY/TDD (For the Hearing Impaired):
1-800-828-1120, or 711
Email Governor McDonnell:
Many civil rights, nonprofit and faith-based groups continue to advocate both legislatively and through executive order to, to remove barriers to voting in Virginia faced by people with felony convictions. Each year several CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS for "automatic restoration of former felon civil & voting rights" are proposed during Virginias' General Assembly session. Each year said proposed legislation have failed. RIHD urge Virginians to contact their district state legislator in support of a constitutional amendment automatic restoration of civil and voting rights to former felons.
Who's my State Legislator:
Restoration of Rights Application/Filing Assistance
Tuesday by Appointment Only
3pm to 8pm
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church
1720 Mechanicsville Turnpike - Richmond, Virginia 23223
(I-64 Mechanicsville Turnpike West Exit)
Call for Appointment: (804)426-4426
Eligibility & Filing Application
If you have lost the right to vote as a result of a felony conviction in a Virginia court, a U.S. District or a military court, you must have your rights restored in order to qualify for voter registration. The restoration of rights restores the rights to vote, to run for and hold public office, to serve on juries and to serve as a notary public. It does not include the right to possess or transport any firearm or to carry a concealed weapon.
In order to be eligible for restoration of rights by the Governor, an applicant must:
- Must be a resident of Virginia, and/or have been convicted of a felony in a Virginia court, a U.S. District court or a military court
- be free from any sentence served or supervised probation and parole for a minimum of two years for a non-violent offense or five years for a violent felony or drug distribution, drug manufacturing offense, any crimes against a minor, or an election law offense.
- have paid all court costs, fines, penalties and restitution and have no felony or misdemeanor charges pending.
- not have had a DWI in the five years immediately preceding the application.
- Not have any misdemeanor convictions and/or pending criminal charges 2 years preceding the application for non-violent felonies or five years for a violent felony or drug distribution, drug manufacturing offense, any crimes against a minor, or an election law offense.
You can download the appropriate application below and, when completed, mail it to this office. Or, if you prefer, we’ll send you a form if you provide a mailing address. On your application, be sure to provide the specific offense(s) and the exact date(s) of sentencing. ** If you do not have this information, you can get it by requesting a Criminal History Record through the Virginia State Police at (804) 674-6718 or online at their website, www.vsp.state.va.us
Non-violent/**Non-drug Felonies - Short Form:
Violent / Drug Distribution Felonies - Long Form:
The Secretary of the Commonwealth Office will conduct a criminal history and DMV record check on all applicants. Petitioners will be sent notice of the Governor’s decision within 60 days from the time an application is considered complete. Petitions are reviewed in the order in which they are received AND complete. If available, 2 Year Applicants are encouraged to include a certified copy of the felony sentencing order and proof of payment of court ordered costs, fines and/or restitution to significantly expedite the decision making process.
If your petition for restoration of rights is denied, you have no right of appeal – but you may reapply after a one-year period.
The restoration of civil rights:
- Does not restore the right to possess a firearm,
- Will not expunge a criminal conviction, Virginia does not have an Expungements process for felony or misdemeanor convictions.
- Is not a pardon. A person who has been convicted of a felony must first have his or her rights restored in order to be considered for a pardon. To regain state firearms privileges, a convicted felon must apply to the circuit court of his or her jurisdiction of residence for a permit to possess or carry a firearm. Circuit courts may consider the restoration of firearms privileges only after civil rights are restored. (Va. Code §18.2-308.2)
Additional Information Regarding Restoring Voting Rights & Clemency
Micah Womack, Director
Candice Reid, Asst. Director
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
Post Office Box 2454
Richmond, Virginia 23218-2454
Page updated July 30, 2012