Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen’s space.” 
— Joe Loya, disenfranchised with a record.

 
 
Background/History
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, 1st time offenders, and are productive citizens, assets to society, are in our communities, have paid their debts to society, earned a second chance in almost all aspects of their life, yet remain disenfranchised for life. Virginians should be outraged!




VA: Governor McAuliffe’s April 22, 2016 order restores the rights to all individuals who, as of April 22, 2016,
have completed the terms of incarceration and have completed any period of supervised release (probation or parole) for any
and all felony convictions. 
Going forward, the Governor will issue monthly orders restoring rights to persons who have completed the terms of their
incarceration and any periods of supervised release since April 22, 2016.  https://commonwealth.virginia.gov/judicial-system/restoration-of-rights /

Have my rights been restored?
You can click here to see if your civil rights have been restored by the Governor.  

New York Times: 
A Second Chance and the Right to Vote:
Mr. McAuliffe took a bolder and more just step last month by restoring those rights to all people with felony convictions. Republican lawmakers say this action “overstepped the bounds of his authority and the constitutional limits on executive powers.”
They fail to point to any provision in the state’s Constitution or laws to support this claim, because there isn’t one. Virginia’s Constitution explicitly empowers the governor “to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” for felonies. It places no qualifications or limitations on that power.

Washington Post: 
Restoring Virginians’ voting rights:
The ban on voting by felons has disenfranchised nearly a quarter-million African Americans in Virginia, about a fifth of the total. Mr. McAuliffe’s office has issued extensive citations from the constitution, under which a felon is banned from voting “unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor” and further empowers the governor to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction.”
That looks like sufficient constitutional basis for Mr. McAuliffe’s action, on top of the moral imperative of erasing one of the last and most noxious vestiges of Jim Crow in Virginia.

Lynchburg News and Advance: 
Restoring a Citizen's Fundamental Civil Rights:
Opponents of the governor’s move likely will challenge him in court; that’s their right. But we believe, in the final analysis, Gov. McAuliffe’s action is entirely constitutional. It is the right thing to do, the moral thing to do.


RIHD CALL TO ACTION
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AUTOMATIC RESTORATION OF RIGHTS
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 AMENDMENT for “automatic restoration of former felon civil & voting rights” are proposed during Virginia’ General Assembly session. Each year said proposed legislation have failed. R.I.H.D urge Virginians to contact their district state legislator in support of a constitutional amendment that ENDS lifetime disenfranchisement of former felons upon completion of requirements (fees, debts related to crime). 
Who’s my State Legislator: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform
 
ON-GOING MOBILE JUSTICE TOUR RESTORATION OF RIGHTS APPLICATION & FILING ASSISTANCE
With STILL  disenfranchised Virginians with felony conviction, there are two ways to get their rights back, MJT partner Bridging the Gap in Virginia will continue his “campaign to restore “100,000” individual’s rights prior to the end of the current Governor’s administration (a non-partisan initiative). Bridging the Gap will explain, answer questions, provide updates, process forms as well as discuss recommendations for further streamlining these policies (e.g. Constitutional Amendment)


HISTORY - PRIOR EVENTS - ACTIONS
 
VA: Governor Removes Court Fines and Fees as Barrier to Voting Rights Restoration
On June 23, 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced changes to the restoration of voting rights process for Virginians with prior felony convictions. The Governor announced that Virginians with prior felony convictions will no longer have to pay their court fees, fines, and restitution as a condition of voting rights restoration eligibility.
http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2015/07/02/va-governor-removes-court-fines-and-fees-as-barrier-to-voting-rights-restoration/
 
Restoration of Rights Rules and Guidelines:
If you have lost the right to vote as a result of a felony conviction in a Virginia court or a U.S. District court, you must have your rights restored 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.  Persons who have been convicted of a violent crime, a crime against a minor, or an election law offense must submit an application to request their rights be restored (click here for more information).  Persons with any other felony convictions are automatically eligible for restoration of rights if the following criteria are met.
 
How to Request Your Rights be Restored:
If you are a non-violent offender currently incarcerated under the Department of Corrections or on supervised probation, you do not need to contact our office.  The Department of Corrections provides a monthly listing to the Secretary’s Office of those offenders who may qualify for restoration of rights. Any individual that meets the criteria will be mailed a letter and grant order to either their last known address or their home plan address.  
If you have had a past non-violent felony conviction(s) and have not had your rights restored to date, you can submit a request to our office online or by mail. 
 
o   Complete the Online Request Form  mail in the Restoration of Rights Contact Form. 
If you have been convicted of a violent crime, a crime against a minor, or an election law offense (see complete list here) you must submit an application to request your rights be restored.
 
o   Application for Restoration of Rights
Criteria for Restoration of Rights for Non-Violent Offenders:
Have been convicted of a non-violent felony in a Virginia court or a U.S. District Court
Have completed serving the prison sentence and been released from supervised probation or parole
Have no pending felony charges.
 
Criteria for Restoration of Rights for Violent/More Serious Offenders:
In order to be eligible for restoration of rights by the Governor, an applicant who has been convicted of a violent felony must:
Have been convicted of a violent or more serious felony in a Virginia court or a U.S. District Court
Be free from any sentence served and/or supervised probation and parole for a minimum of three years.
Not have any felony convictions in the three years immediately preceding the application and/or pending criminal charges. 
 
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 )674-2000 or online at their website,  www.vsp.state.va.us.
 
The Secretary of the Commonwealth Office will conduct a criminal history check on all applicants.  Applications are considered complete once the Secretary of the Commonwealth has received all copies of court documentation and criminal records. Petitioners will be sent notice of the Governor’s decision.
 
If your petition for restoration of rights is denied, you do not have the right to appeal the decision.  You may reapply one year from the date on your letter.
 
How to have your Restoration of Rights shown on your criminal record:
Once your civil rights have been restored by the Governor, you may have a notation added to your Virginia Criminal Record showing your Restoration of Rights. 
To have such a statement added to your criminal record, you must submit a complete set of fingerprints, taken by a law enforcement agency on an “Applicant Fingerprint Card.” Click here for further instructions.
More about Restoration of Rights:
The restoration of civil rights:
--Does not restore the right to possess a firearm,
--Will not expunge or remove a criminal conviction (Virginia does not have an expungement process for felony or misdemeanor convictions. Va. Code §19.2-392.2)
--Is not a pardon.
--Restoration of rights is only necessary following felony convictions.  Misdemeanor convictions and juvenile convictions do not result in the loss of civil rights.
--A person who has been convicted of a felony must first have his or her rights restored in order to petition for a pardon.  For more information on how to request a pardon, please click here.
--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)
 
Please contact our Restoration of Rights Division at 804-692-0104 or 1-855-575-9177 if you have any questions about the restoration process.