McDonnell Calls Prisoner Voting Letter a Mistake

Hundreds of felons told to write personal letter to McDonnell

By Teneille Gibson
|  Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010  |  Updated 11:45 AM EDT
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McDonnell Calls Prisoner Voting Letter a Mistake

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Hundreds of felons in Virginia received a letter telling them to they had to write a personal letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell if they wanted to get their voting rights back.

Apparently that was a mistake, according to the Washington Post. A spokesman for McDonnell said a staffer accidentally sent the letters.

The letters sent to felons said that, “as a new requirement,” nonviolent offenders must provide a “personal letter to the Governor explaining the circumstances of your arrest and conviction.” They were also told to detail their efforts to get a job, seek education, and participate in church and community activities, and why they think their rights should be restored.

The governor’s letter went on to say that failure to do so would result in applications being closed “with prejudice.”

Tucker Martin, spokesman for the governor, said a new voting rights policy is still being debated and it’s a “draft policy proposal.”

McDonnell wants to overhaul the current system for felons to have their voting rights restored.

Opponents to the new proposal said it would make the process subjective and may prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote.

In a statement given to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said: "Governor McDonnell’s decision to use the executive power granted to him to transform the restoration of voting rights from an objective process to a subjective one that is contingent on an original essay for nonviolent offenders is taking a horrific step back towards the era of Jim Crow."

According to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, Virginia would be the only state to require a letter for the restoration of civil rights. 

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