Election Law

Virginia's general ban on voting by ex-felons is 'stain on the state's democracy'

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell has restored voting rights to about 1,500 ex-felons a year, about 80 percent of those who applied.

But that’s not enough in a state where about 11,500 people are released from prison each year, the Washington Post asserts in an editorial. More than 7 percent of the voting-age population isn’t allowed to vote in Virginia because of a state constitutional ban. An exception is allowed only for ex-felons whose rights are individually restored by the governor.

“Given that more than half of the state’s prison population is African-American, the result is a stain on the state’s democracy,” the Post says.

Virginia is one of only four states with severe disenfranchisement laws. McDonnell has supported changing the state constitution, but he has been blocked by Republicans in the state House of Delegates “who may fear an infusion of African-American voters,” the article says.

In the meantime, the Post suggests measures to boost restoration of voting rights, such as supplying applications for restoration to those released from prison or completing parole.

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