In a significant departure from the policies of Virginia’s three previous governors, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration now mandates that individuals with felony convictions actively apply to regain their voting rights upon release from prison.
Before this change, certain groups of offenders automatically regained their rights. The shift represents a reduction in rights for former felons amid an ongoing debate about state management of voting rights for this population. The Virginia Constitution permits governors to establish their own policies concerning rights restoration requests.
The Youngkin administration has not yet revealed the criteria that will be used to make these decisions. Voting rights restoration has been a historically contentious issue in Virginia. Democratic Governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam restored rights to over 173,000 and 126,000 individuals, respectively, while former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell approved more than 8,000.
Attempts to amend the Constitution to automate the restoration process have been thwarted by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
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