City School Board candidate may be impacted by court’s felon voting rights revocation

Jeremy Lazarus | 8/5/2016, 7:17 a.m.
At least one Richmond candidate could be impacted by the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling July 22 throwing out Gov. Terry ...

At least one Richmond candidate could be impacted by the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling July 22 throwing out Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent executive orders restoring the rights of 206,000 felons to vote and run for office.

Kevin Starlings, one of two challengers to incumbent Jeff M. Bourne for the 3rd District seat on the Richmond School Board, is one of those felons. He pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2009 of embezzling from an employer.

After the governor restored his voting rights April 22, Mr. Starlings, founder and owner of a business consulting firm, filed all the necessary paperwork and won certification to be on the ballot from the Richmond Electoral Board in late June.

Mr. Starlings, who is well known in North Side and has been an active community volunteer, has been regarded as a strong challenger to Mr. Bourne.

However, Mr. Starlings’ right to run is now in question, according to Voter Registrar Kirk Showalter.

She said Monday she is seeking guidance from the state Department of Elections about whether the city Electoral Board should keep or remove Mr. Starlings’ name from the Richmond ballot.

“I’m waiting to get an indication from the state before approaching my board,” Ms. Showalter said.

The situation is highly unusual, and she said guidance is needed because the city board appears to have little authority to remove a candidate who has been certified.

Ms. Showalter said if Mr. Starlings is disqualified, she likely would need to recheck the petitions other candidates filed with the names and signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot. If those petitions included the names of voters whose voting rights were revoked last month by the state Supreme Court, those names would be invalid, she said.

She said the check would mostly be for candidates who filed close to the minimum number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. One candidate who could be impacted is Richmond City Council President Michelle R. Mosby, a candidate for mayor, who just met the requirement to file 500 valid signatures, according to the registrar’s records.

“If Mr. Starlings remains qualified as a candidate, then the issue would be moot,” Ms. Showalter said.

Mr. Starlings is facing revocation of his registration to vote along with an estimated 13,000 people who registered to vote based on the governor’s orders of April 22, May 31 and June 24 restoring their rights.

The state Department of Elections has announced that it has altered the computerized list of Virginia voters to move the names of all of those newly registered felons back to the prohibited voter list as the court ordered.

“The cancellation (of registration) and the notification to voters the (Supreme Court) has ordered removed from the (voter) rolls will be completed by Aug. 8,” Virginia Commissioner of Elections Edgardo Cortés stated last Friday.

Gov. McAuliffe has promised to sign individual orders to restore the civil rights of the 13,000 people and of the others who had not yet registered, but has yet to follow through.

As of Wednesday, Brian Coy, the governor’s spokesman, responded that no individual orders restoring the rights of the 13,000 people have yet been signed. “At this time, we are in the process of finalizing our next steps,” Mr. Coy stated.

In a Facebook posting last Friday, the governor stated that he had completed “his initial review of the records for those eligible men and women whose voter registrations were cancelled July 22.”

The governor still has plenty of time to get the individual orders signed and distributed. In order to vote in the Nov. 8 election, the13,000 need to have their rights restored and to register again on or before the registration deadline, Oct. 17.