ICYMI: Nearly 70,000 People in Virginia Regain the Right to Vote


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Contact: Tiffany Potter, tiffany@progressva.org,  434-906-0870

ICYMI: Nearly 70,000 People in Virginia Regain the Right to Vote

Virginia—Thanks to the tireless efforts of rights restoration activists and organizers around the Commonwealth, 69,000 formerly incarcerated people have had their civil rights restored and can now vote. The right to vote is central to being an American, and restoring returning citizens’ rights is an essential step towards ensuring that everyone can participate in our elections.  

Everyone deserves to be able to make their voice heard in our democracy, regardless of their past mistakes. People of color, particularly Black men, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Withholding their right to vote after they have served their sentence perpetuates white supremacy. By allowing returning citizens to vote, we take one small step towards a more equitable society where everyone’s voice can be heard.

Northam Restores Voting Rights for 69,000 Virginians on Probation for Felonies Under New Policy [Roanoke Times, Mel Leonor]

“Our democracy is strongest when we all have the opportunity to participate, and our communities are stronger and safer for it,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director, New Virginia Majority.   

Virginia Governor Restores Voting Rights to 69k Ex-Felons [Associated Press, Denise Lavoie]

Until now, former felons who have served their sentences were not eligible to have their civil rights restored until after they completed probation. The new eligibility criteria announced by Northam means that, going forward, people convicted of felonies will become eligible to have their rights restored once they serve their prison time, although the governor’s office would still have to approve it.

Under the state constitution, the governor can restore civil rights to former felons. If the constitutional amendment is approved, the restoration of rights will become automatic when a felon is released from prison.

Virginia is one of just three states whose constitution permanently disenfranchises citizens with felony convictions, but gives the governor the discretion to restore civil rights.

Reforms over the last decade have made the restoration of rights process easier by streamlining the application, and eliminating the waiting period and a requirement to pay court costs and fees before rights can be restored. Before Tuesday’s announcement, Northam had restored civil rights to about 42,000 people.