Virginia ACLU Executive Director: Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement "related to Jim Crow"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The ACLU weighs in on the ex-felon disenfranchisement issue:
“The entire felon disenfranchisement issue is very connected to race,” says Kent Willis, executive director of Virginia’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Willis cites as examples Virginia’s 1901 constitutional convention that instituted the poll tax and literacy tests for voters, in addition to the disenfranchisement of felons. The three “are all related to Jim Crow,” Willis says. It still affects African Americans significantly more than anyone else. Of the 300,000 people in Virginia who are disenfranchised, Willis says, roughly 50 percent are African American.


"The sad truth is that the governor holds complete control over who gets their rights restored," he says, noting that there is no process in state law that dictates criteria for voting rights restoration. "It’s completely arbitrary and that’s the process we’re trying to change."
In sum, if Governor Kaine has "complete control over who gets their rights restored," if this policy is "related to Jim Crow," and if Kaine himself said recently, "I very strongly believe that people who have paid their debt to society should have voting rights restored," then why on earth doesn't he do it? I'm baffled.

h/t: Not Larry Sabato

UPDATE: Just to clarify, in no way/shape/form do I believe that Tim Kaine is in the least bit racist. The entire point here is that voter disenfranchisement has its roots in Jim Crow racism, and to this day it continues to disproportionately impact African Americans. That's one huge reason why Governor Kaine should issue a blanket reinstatement of voting rights, at least for non-violent ex-felons, because we need to remove this disgraceful stain of racism from Virginia once and for all.