Let’s throw Virginia Gov. McAuliffe an envelope-stuffing party—to support voting rights

America should be a place of second chances — an ideal that’s often harshly flouted by the workings of our criminal justice system. For those who’ve done time in prison, their mistakes typically also mean a lifetime of denied opportunities for redemption, penitence, and full integration back into society.

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe, signing orders. Credit: @GovernorVA

It doesn’t have to be this way. In Virginia, that’s why leading organizations like New Virginia Majority have been rallying around Governor Terry McAuliffe’s effort to restore the voting rights of ex-offenders. Their work hit a roadblock when the Virginia state Supreme Court invalidated the governor’s decision to restore those citizens’ voting rights en masse. Instead, the high court ruled, the governor must restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated on an individual, case-by-case basis.

In response, Gov. McAuliffe has vowed to sign all the orders for the affected 200,000 Virginians individually. Among the reactions to the announcement: is it even logistically possible? The Washington Post reports that the Governor’s office plans to computerize the process and use electronic signatures:

“We’re working on the overall approach to this. How do we comply with the legality of the order? How do we do that in the most efficient way?” said Kelly Thomasson, secretary of the commonwealth who is in charge of rights restoration.

Thomasson, the secretary of the commonwealth, said her office will check public safety databases to review the criminal histories of the 13,000 felons who registered to vote.

Then they will probably produce 13,000 computer-generated rights restoration orders printed with the signatures of herself and McAuliffe, she said. Those orders will be mailed to newly enfranchised felons to the most recent addresses on file for them.

As the resulting scenario suggests, the governor and his staff would still face a mountain of paperwork. So let’s throw Gov. McAuliffe an envelope-stuffing party: a gathering of volunteers to help sort through and mail out those individual orders.

For more information, see “Rights Restoration in Virginia,” Advancement Project; and “Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Virginia,” Brennan Center for Justice (2016).

 

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