VOP: "Kaine Leaves Virginia’s Felony Disenfranchisement Laws Stuck in a Jim Crow Past"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Strong stuff from the Virginia Organizing Project.
Governor Kaine Declines to Issue an Executive Order Restoring Voting Rights for Former Felons

Just in Time for Martin Luther King Day, Governor Kaine Leaves Virginia’s Felony Disenfranchisement Laws Stuck in a Jim Crow Past

Richmond, VA-After months of pressure from faith and civil rights groups, Governor Tim Kaine has stated that he will not sign an Executive Order granting restoration of rights for Virginia’s 300,000 disenfranchised former felons.

Only Virginia and Kentucky permanently disenfranchise all felons upon conviction, requiring an act of the Governor to restore voting rights. Virginia’s disenfranchisement policy is a vestige from the Jim Crow era and was a product of the 1901 Constitutional Convention, deliberately designed to marginalize minority voters. The Governor has the executive power to restore voting rights via an Executive Order to all of Virginia’s former felons. Governor Kaine has received thousands of phone calls and letters encouraging him to sign an Executive Order restoring rights for former felons.

Janice “Jay” Johnson, Chairperson of the Virginia Organizing Project issued the following statement:
“Governor Tim Kaine’s decision not to restore voting rights for former felons in Virginia is a deep disappointment. Faith and civil rights groups have been fighting to correct this injustice for decades, often knowing that their voices are unlikely to be heard by those in power. When Governor Kaine was elected there was a collective sense of hope that his term may bring about long-awaited change. Today, Governor Kaine dashed those hopes once and for all by stating that he would not grant a blanket restoration of voting rights for former felons.

Governor Kaine took the route of expediency over principle by declining to correct an injustice dating back to the Jim Crow-era. Just a few days before our nation will celebrate a great civil rights leader, Governor Kaine made the decision to leave us rooted in the racism of the past. ”

The Virginia Organizing Project is a statewide, multi-issue grassroots organization committed to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives.

UPDATE: Here's a statement from Sandra Cook, Vice-Chair of VOP, on Kaine's motivations. The bottom line: he had the power to restore rights but "He just did not want to do it."
There is no good reason for Kaine not to restore voting rights for former felons. It is the right thing to do and given his previous support of this issue, we had high hopes that he would do it. He has mentioned that he perceived that legally he could not restore rights by blanket restoration without providing individual names of former-felons seeking their voting rights. This is not the case, though. Restoring voting rights falls under the category of "removing political disability." The Governor can "remove political disability" without providing the names to the legislature. Kaine has been in communication with numerous attorneys from the ACLU, the Brennen Center and several Universities who have provided him with ample evidence proving that he does, in fact, have the power to restore rights without specific names. He just did not want to do it.