RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that his administration restored the civil rights to 10,992 Virginians previously convicted of a felony since he took office just over a year ago.
The Constitution of Virginia gives the Governor the sole discretion to restore civil rights, not including firearm rights. Virginians were given their right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office, and become a notary public.
“I believe in second chances and making our Commonwealth more open and accessible to all,” said Governor Northam. “Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy. This is an important achievement that marks my administration’s unwavering commitment to fairness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.”
A number of reforms have been made to the restoration of rights process over the last six years, starting with Governor Robert McDonnell’s initiative in 2013 to streamline the process for non-violent felons.
Governor Terry McAuliffe was able to build upon those reforms during his administration, which included eliminating the waiting period and the prerequisite for court costs and fees to be paid prior to having one’s rights restored. When Governor McAuliffe left office, he restored the rights of 173,166 Virginians.
Today, the criteria and process remain in place, and Governor Northam has continued to restore the rights of individuals returning into society after being released from supervision.
Over the course of the last year, Governor Northam has restored civil rights to more individuals than any other Virginia governor prior to Governor McAuliffe.
“I am proud to have worked with two governors to improve the rights restoration process—making it easier for individuals to have a second chance and move forward with their lives,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “Governor Northam has been committed to this process from day one and our team has worked diligently to achieve this milestone.”
The rights restoration process does not restore an individual’s right to have a firearm, which is also lost with a felony conviction. Individuals seeking to have their gun rights restored must petition the circuit court in their respective locality, after having their civil rights restored by the Governor.
For more information about the restoration of rights and the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, click here.