SENATE COMMITTEE GUTS RESTORATION OF RIGHTS PROVISIONS IN PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
RICHMOND – This afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee reported a constitutional amendment to automatically restore the rights of non-violent felons while stripping the Governor from his power to restore rights on a case-by-case basis, thus forever barring other felons from being able to participate in the electoral process. Senator Tommy Norment’s (R-James City County) SJR 223 now incorporates four other proposed constitutional amendments, in spite of objections from some of the other patrons.
Said Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), "This attempt to limit the powers of the Governor to restore voting rights is nothing short of shameful."
Said Senator Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), "These are individuals trying to pick up the pieces, get on with their lives and become productive members of society. Our job is to create an environment where they have the opportunity to do so as fully integrated members of their communities."
Said Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), “This final package does not represent the spirit of the individual amendments that were proposed. My proposed constitutional amendments aimed to restore voting rights to anyone who has paid their dues to society. The version that passed not only cherry picks who gets their rights restored, but strips the Governor of the power to restore rights to the rest.”
SJR 223 retains its original language. The resolution incorporates:
- SJR 222 – Patron: Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) – Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies who have completed service of their sentences subject to the conditions, requirements, and definitions set forth in that law. The present Constitution provides for restoration of rights by the Governor. The amendment retains the right of the Governor to restore civil rights and adds an alternative for restoration of rights pursuant to law for nonviolent felons.
- SJR 243 – Patron: Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) – Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of felonies. The amendment retains the right of the Governor to restore civil rights to such persons.
- SJR 272 – Patron: Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Mount Solon) – Authorizes the General Assembly to provide by law for the restoration of civil rights for any person who has been convicted of a felony not designated by the General Assembly as a barrier crime for these purposes and who has completed service of his sentence and paid in full any restitution, fines, costs, and fees assessed against him as a result of his conviction.
- SJR 319 – Patron: Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) – Establishes that the sole qualifications to vote in the Commonwealth are United States citizenship, being at least 18 years of age, residency in the Commonwealth, and registration to vote in accordance with requirements set out in the Constitution of Virginia. The amendment further provides that any person who meets those qualifications shall have the right to vote and such right cannot be abridged by law. The bill removes from current constitutional qualifications to vote not having been convicted of a felony and not having been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent.
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