As the dust continues to settle surrounding the Virginia Attorney General race, two things have become clear. First, we may not have an official winner for some time pending an expected recount. Second, and most importantly, provisional ballots count and are far more important than some would lead you to believe.
This week, Virginia took a major step for people with felony convictions’ voting rights with Governor Bob McDonnell’s announcement that the state will restore voting rights for nonviolent felons who have already completed their sentences. Currently, the state constitution requires a person with a felony conviction to apply in writing to the governor after a prescribed waiting period to regain their right to vote.
News broke this morning that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill which will require all voters in Virginia to present a photo ID to vote. The law, which will go into effect in 2014, will be the second drastic voter ID change in the Commonwealth in the span of three years if it is implemented.
Governor McDonnell, who earlier this year made headlines urging the Republican controlled General Assembly to automatically restore the rights of felons to vote in Virginia, has proven he is not focused on expanding or protecting the right to vote through signing this bill.
We often hear our nation’s prison system described as “rehabilitative”; meaning if someone commits a crime, they serve time in order to correct their criminal behavior, and later enter back into society with the hope that they will contribute to their community and refrain from committing another crime. Work release programs, mandatory rehabilitation programs, and probationary periods help ensure that former felons start over and stay on a new, productive path once they have completed their sentence. We want these people to become engaged members of society.
During Wednesday’s first full day of session, the Virginia General Assembly was addressed by Governor Bob McDonnell. During a speech which touched on transportation and education, the Governor made a point to discuss felon disenfranchisement and the need to make the restoration of voting rights automatic for non-violent felons.
Late last week, a Texas judge issued an injunction striking down five provisions of Texas’ voter registration laws, in what many are calling a victory for voter registration organizations. Numerous provisions of the law were in question, with many of the more onerous provisions being halted by a temporary injunction pending trial.
As legal arguments over Texas’ controversial photo ID law continue, it is important to remember that the debate about voter ID stretches far beyond the courtroom into voting booths across the country. Newly passed voter ID laws in numerous states could have a dramatic affect this November leaving legitimate votes uncounted.
Last week Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a new Virginia law which will place what he referred to as “an undue burden on the voters.” We’ve discussed the changes which Governor McDonnell attempted to make to the legislation previously.