Nearly 6 million Americans nationwide aren’t allowed to vote because of felony convictions, according to a new report released by the Washington-based Sentencing Project.
In Virginia, where some 350,000 of them are located, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has been busy restoring the voting rights of some 3,100 convicted felons during his two and half years in office, according to a report Friday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Jeff Caldwell, a McDonnell spokesman, said the governor’s administration is trying to expedite the process as quickly as possible.
“This includes streamlining the application-review process, providing information to felons in community supervision settings, and providing re-entry counseling,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “It is a goal of this administration to restore as many rights as possible to those who have paid their debt to society and returned to be productive citizens.”
The report from the Sentencing Project estimates that one in every 13 African Americans has been disenfranchised because of felony records. In Virginia, one in five African Americans has lost the right to vote, the third highest rate in the country behind Florida and Kentucky.
Virginia and Mississippi are the only two states where the restoration of voting rights must be approved by the governor. In all but 11 states, rights are restored automatically once time is served, although 30 states withhold voting rights to felons still on probation and 35 states withhold rights to felons on parole.
Maine and Vermont, meanwhile, are the only two states that do not take voting rights away from felons.
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