Frank Anderson Tells His Story

Monday, December 28, 2009

For those who haven't been following this story, Frank Anderson is the guy who was denied restoration of his voting rights by Governor Kaine. Anderson's crime was burglary, back in 1998, for which he served two years and two months in prison. Here's the rest of the story.
...Since that time I have completed probation, paid all my fines, held steady jobs, not been convicted of any other crimes, volunteered on numerous Democratic campaigns in Virginia (starting with Kaine for Governor), registered hundreds of voters and earned my associate's degree. Through my work in voter registration, I learned about how people like myself can get their rights restored. I filled out the Application for Restoration of Rights and submitted it along with my criminal records. That December, I received a letter telling me the application was denied, with no explanation. There is a two-year waiting period to reapply and there is no appeals process.

Over the past year I've been looking for other avenues to get my rights restored, since the decision is ultimately up to the Governor and not the Secretary of the Commonwealth. I started working with a coalition of groups and activists ( concerned with restoring rights to the 300,000 disenfranchised convicted felons in Virginia. Finally on December 16, 2009 I received an email from Bernard Henderson, Senior Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth...
Anderson then recounts how Governor Kaine denied the restoration of his voting rights due to speeding tickets. As Anderson notes, Kaine has the power to deny restoration of voting rights for any reason, just as "the Governor has the complete power to overturn the unfair requirements for restoration." Also, as Anderson correctly points out, "there is nothing stopping [Kaine] from issuing an Executive Order that restores rights to all ex-felons in Virginia who have completed the terms of their sentences." It's truly infuriating, as Frank Anderson explains.
...Governor Kaine, who I helped get elected, who is the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a civil rights lawyer and a man of faith, should believe in fundamental rights and the concept of redemption. Unfortunately he seems unwilling to take this step to undo Virginia's regressive policy. Yes, Governor-Elect McDonnell could try to overturn it. So what? Which side of history do you want to be on? Kentucky, or the rest of the United States that have more sensible processes for ex-felons to regain their voting rights? What possible legal or political drawback is there to setting up a precedent by which convicted felons, who have fulfilled all their obligations and stayed out of trouble for over three years, can become full citizens again?
The short answer: none. The longer answer: absolutely none. Sadly, Virginia joins Kentucky as the most restrictive states in the country with regard to restoring felons' voting rights when they complete their sentences. The fact that this Jim Crow-era law is still on the books in Virginia as we head into the second decade of the 21st century utterly boggles my mind. Even more mind boggling is the fact that a Democrat who many of us worked our asses off to elect as governor - and who is now chair of the Democratic Party! - is unwilling to do what Republican Charlie Crist did in Florida. What. The. Hell.