WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced yesterday that he is restoring the voting rights of over 69,000 Virginians. The change updates the current eligibility criteria for formerly incarcerated citizens to have their voting rights restored by the governor, speeding up the process so that “any Virginian released from incarceration will qualify to have their rights restored, even if they remain on community supervision.”
The move follows the Virginia 2021 General Assembly’s approval of a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated upon their release. However, the amendment must pass the General Assembly once again in 2022 and then be approved by voters in a 2022 referendum. Currently, only the Virginia governor can restore these civil rights — Northam’s move on Tuesday re-enfranchised 69,000 Virginians under this authority. Although the next governor would have the ability to overturn his action, the pending constitutional amendment, if passed, would make this restoration of voting rights automatic and permanent, regardless of the governor in power.