Report Suggests Help for Gov. on Restoring Va. Felons’ Voting Rights

A committee appointed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli suggests designating a state agency to help the governor restore felons' voting rights.

Cuccinelli's seven-member Rights Restoration Advisory Committee issued its report Tuesday.

The Republican candidate for governor formed the panel in March to determine whether the procedure for restoring felons' rights can be revised without amending the Virginia Constitution. Legislative proposals to automatically restore nonviolent felons' rights have failed repeatedly, most recently in the 2013 legislature. Those efforts focused on amending the constitution, which says felons cannot vote unless their civil rights have been restored by the governor “or other appropriate authority.” The amendment had the support of Cuccinelli, the governor and many Democrats.

Virginia has one of the toughest standards in the nation. The governor must review and act on each application.

Fairfax County Democratic Committee Executive Director Frank Anderson is immersed in politics, but until three years ago he couldn't vote, a right he lost when as a 20-year-old he was convicted of a felony for a home burglary. He served his time and learned he could apply to have his voting rights restored but was initially turned down.

Under Gov. Bob McDonnell, almost 5,000 felons had their voting privileges and other civil rights restored, but it's estimated there are more than 350,000 who are eligible.

The legislature could designate an executive branch agency to do all the legwork and lead an outreach effort, the committee said. The governor would retain the final say.

The latest report concludes the governor does not have the power to issue a blanket executive order restoring all felons’ right.

Democrats charge that Cuccinelli has embraced the issue belatedly to soften his image as he runs for governor.

Gov. McDonnell told News4 he has his own proposal to deliver.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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