If you didn’t know that Virginia’s policy towards re-instating voting rights to ex-prisoners has changed, you aren’t alone. Seems that the governor made up his own policy and didn’t tell anyone about it.
According to the Washington Post, Youngkin’s voting restoration policy for those who have done the time for crime is a secret, neither stated nor made public for those seeking to re-enroll as a Virginia voter.
The past two governors, Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam, restored over 300,000 voting rights to Virginians who had completed sentences. In fact, the process of reinstating voting rights to Virginians was made easier by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
However, to date, Youngkin has restored only 3,400 and sees no reason to let the state know why, or even how he makes his executive decisions.
Ex-prisoners seeking to vote again aren’t on the run or involved in criminal activities. Many made mistakes when young and have given a good deal of their lives to repay their obligations. They are ex-criminals because they have paid their debt mandated by law and are attempting the arduous task of returning to a society that will always see them with the taint of prison cell lingering about.
Here’s the issue: voting is a right. When society doesn’t allow those returning to it to participate as full members, it risks creating a potentially dangerous problem. Those who don’t feel connected lose respect for the law and those who control it. Refusing to re-enfranchise ex-prisoners causes a disenfranchisement which in turn creates a two- tiered system of citizenry, and weakens society as a whole.
Voting is a right, not a privilege. You don’t lose your freedom of religion or your right to due process upon incarceration, nor should you lose your right to vote.
So the governor, who mistakenly believes he’s protecting society by denying rights, is actually weakening the foundation that this country was founded on: the right for all citizens to vote and fully participate in society.
But maybe there’s another reason for Youngkin’s lack of voter restoration. Maybe he knows that those who’ve seen the legal system and its injustice, the prison system and its overwhelming black and brown population, and employers and landlords who discriminate against those who have been incarcerated, maybe these citizens might not be inclined to vote for his party. Maybe he knows that republicans have not always been at the vanguard of protecting rights and fighting discrimination. Maybe he knows his party would rather limit the right to vote than insure voting rights for all.
He seems determined to maintain Jim Crow discrimination practices and keep Virginia's vaulted reputation as being one of only several states that that still permanently take away people’s right to vote upon a felony conviction unless the governor restores it on an individual basis. This system has disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Virginians, the majority of whom are Black. The problem is so serious that one in five Black Virginians cannot vote because of felony disenfranchisement, even though Black people make up only about 20% of Virginia’s population.
In the 2023 Virginia General Assembly session, Democrats proposed numerous bills and Constitutional Amendments that would allow automatic restoration of civil rights after completing a felony sentence. These bills, of course, were defeated by the republicans.
Maybe those who’ve done their time scare the socks off the governor.
So he’s resorted to secrecy and dead of night policy changes that discriminate against ex- convicts. Kind of makes you wonder what he plotting for the rest of us, doesn’t it ?
From the editor:
If you want to stop Youngkin and the Republicans from "Rolling us Back to Jim Crow" please consider joining your local Democratic Committee to help make that happen. We have a chance to take control of the General Assembly on November 7, 2023 and stop them in their tracks.