Virginia felons’ right to vote might be taken away– again

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Doing time for a crime, doesn’t always mean getting a second chance.  But in the state of Virginia, there was a glimmer of hope that someone who lost the right to vote could earn it back.

In April, Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, signed an executive order granting 206,000 Virginians the right to vote who had served jail sentences, probation and parole.

–Eric Holder: Voter ID laws threaten voting rights

However, a new report by The New York Times shows how some lawmakers are fighting against the change, with the state’s Supreme Court hearing arguments to get Gov. McAuliffe’s sweeping order overturned.  It could leave thousands of people registered to vote, but unable to exercise their newfound right.

“This could get really messy,” Tram Nguyen, an executive director of New Virginia Majority, told The Times. “What happens if the executive order gets overturned? There’s no precedent; 5,800 people are actively on the registration rolls now. Do we purge them?”

Leah Taylor, one of the Virginians whose voting rights were given to her by the order, called the idea of having her name removed from registration “appalling.”

–Iowa felons disenfranchised in pursuit of voting rights

“I did my time; I did everything I was supposed to do,” said Taylor, who missed voting in the historic election of Barack Obama, due to an arrest for selling crack cocaine two decades earlier.  “I paid the courts, I paid the fines and got my life back on track.”

With 45 percent of people affected by the order being black, some claim racism is at the heart of Republican lawmakers’ attacks on McAuliffe’s order.  But the governor’s executive order has also drawn criticism because the list of 206,000 eligible voters had many errors, including the names of felons who were still behind bars.

The Supreme Court will hold a special session to hear arguments about the case in July, which means a decision could be made in time for the general election.  Should these voters get a shot or do they still have a price to pay?

–How President Obama is changing the game for former felons

 

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