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When a person is charged with a felony and sentenced to jail, we expect him to be a productive part of the community when he is released. However, the laws in Virginia refuse to treat all people with the respect they deserve.
One of the most unjust ways the law does this is by refusing to reinstate people's right to vote automatically after they have served their sentence. This is a pervasive civil-rights issue in our state.
These laws date back to Virginia's 1850s constitution, which required that people with past felony convictions be individually pardoned by the governor to be able to vote. These current laws are stringent, outdated, and oppressive. They mock the constitutional guarantee that everyone has the right to vote.
Lawmakers in Virginia could easily amend this law and automatically restore this right for all people. Almost all other states have done so. When a person is restored his civil rights, it represents a new chapter in his life and strengthens his ties within the community.
Virginia Organizing will soon be addressing this issue by hosting training in our community.
Trisha Hindy Martin