Restoration rights process bogged down

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/12/2016, 2 p.m.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been unable to keep his promise to swiftly restore felons’ voting rights on a case-by-case basis …

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been unable to keep his promise to swiftly restore felons’ voting rights on a case-by-case basis after the Virginia Supreme Court struck down his executive orders restoring voting rights en masse to more than 200,000 felons.

Instead, the governor and his administration have become bogged down in trying to create a new procedure for case-by-case restoration that would pass legal muster.

As a result, the governor has stopped restoring the rights of anyone — even felons whose rights were restored under procedures in place before Gov. McAuliffe issued his initial blanket restoration order on April 22, according to Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, who manages restoration of felons’ rights for the governor.

At a forum Tuesday night in Richmond, Secretary Thomasson acknowledged that her office is still trying to put a process in place to restore rights on a case-by-case basis.

She said her office is working to create an online form that would allow eligible felons to apply for individual restoration of their rights to vote, run for office, serve on juries and become a notary public.

She did not offer many details or guidance when the process would be in place.

“I know I’m being super vague, and it’s annoying to everybody,” she told the more than 50 people who attended the program hosted by Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in North Side. “I understand that. I apologize. But again we’re putting that process into place.”

Among the people impacted are 13,000 felons who registered to vote based on the governor’s blanket orders in April, May and June. However, their registration was revoked by the high court’s 4-3 decision on July 22.

It also includes former nonviolent offenders who qualified under an almost automatic procedure developed by Gov. McAuliffe’s predecessor, former Gov. Bob McDonnell. Gov. McAuliffe had continued and expanded the process started by the former Republican governor.

The administration’s goal to is try to get the 13,000 formerly registered felons on the state’s voter rolls in time to vote in the Nov. 8 election. The deadline to register is Oct. 17, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Since the court’s ruling, the department developed procedures to remove those newly registered voters from the rolls and to send them individual notifications that their rights have been revoked.