VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Former Governor Terry McAuliffe called upon the Virginia General Assembly to restore voting rights to convicted felons.
“If you’ve served your debt to society, we want you voting again. To me, this is a civil rights issue, it’s a moral issue,” said McAuliffe.
The former governor claims the issue dates back to Jim Crow Laws, established to disenfranchise African American communities. Charniele Herring, Majority Leader for the Virginia House of Delegates, agrees.
“It’s well-documented that this was to take African Americans out of the political process,” said Herring.
Although Herring says she is feeling confident the reform will pass, Virginia Republicans have concerns.
“Freedoms come with a set of responsibilities that require self discipline and self governance,” said Sean Rastatter, First Vice President of the Fairfax GOP.
Rastatter says that there should be a discussion regarding a felony versus a misdemeanor, and the crime should determine whether the felon can vote.
“A violent felon, someone who’s going to go and kill someone on the street for petty crimes, I personally don’t think they should be electing our legislators,” he said.
Another issue up for debate are requirements to vote, such as voter ID. Herring says certain restrictions can create more voter disparity.
“We don’t believe as Democrats that we need an ID to vote, it creates a barrier,” she said.
However, Republicans say restrictions are necessary to ensure a fair election.
“We have to know who is voting. Just as you know who is buying alcohol at the store or who is buying a fire arm, we need to know who is casting ballots,” said Matthew Hurtt, Communications Director for the Arlington GOP.
Democrats also hope to address other criminal reform issues, such as ending the death penalty.
The Virginia General Assembly will last for 30 days, with the potential of being extended.
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