Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that the civil rights of 6,874 Virginians have been restored during his tenure, 1,577 since July 15, when he began automatically restoring rights for nonviolent felons on an individual basis.
“I strongly believe in second chances and redemption. It is a fundamental part of the American way,” McDonnell said in a statement.
“Our efforts on prisoner re-entry and the restoration of rights are working. When an individual has done their time, and paid their fines, costs, and other obligations, they deserve the opportunity to rejoin our democracy in full.”
McDonnell announced in May that beginning July 15 he would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons on an individual basis.
The sweeping administrative action -- while not an instantaneous blanket restoration -- is as far as the governor can go within current Virginia law, administration officials said.
The change removed the application process for nonviolent felons. Once the administration verifies a nonviolent felon has paid his debt to society, the governor sends the individual a letter restoring his rights.
The change means thousands of nonviolent felons in Virginia could get their voting rights back in time to vote in the November election.
McDonnell restored the rights of 1,114 felons in 2010; 1,293 in 2011 and 1,879 in 2012.
McDonnell has restored the civil rights of more than any other governor's administration.
But there are still about 350,000 disenfranchised people in the state who have completed their sentences, according to The Sentencing Project's 2012 report, which used 2010 numbers.