A new law that restored the voting rights of many convicted felons in Virginia is under fire right now and could soon be overturned by the courts.
The idea behind the voting rights law is that convicted felons who have served their sentences and paid their fines deserve the chance to get their lives back on track.
Restoring Voting Rights for Felons
The problem with laws that bar convicted felons from voting is that they discourage people who have served their time and paid their penance from fully reentering society. After all, without the right to vote for their representatives, how can these people feel as though they truly have a voice in the decisions that are supposed to be made on their behalf?
That’s one of the reasons that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order earlier this year that gave convicted felons in the state a chance to earn back their voting rights. The law applied to most people who had been convicted of crimes and were subsequently sentenced to jail time or probation or placed on parole.
Prior to signing the recent executive order, Governor McAuliffe specifically noted that the earlier law prohibiting convicted felons from voting was passed during the Civil War era and was intended to disenfranchise black voters. In fact, some statistics indicate that as many as 45 percent of the individuals currently affected by the new law are black.
State Supreme Court to Decide Whether Convicted Felons Can Regain Voting Rights
Although the Virginia governor’s executive order was seen as a major step in the right direction when it was signed into law in April, several GOP legislators in Virginia are now attempting to reverse its effects. A group of state lawmakers is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the executive order and rule that the governor acted beyond the legal bounds of his power when he implemented it. The state’s highest court is going to need to hold a special session this month so that the justices can listen to arguments from both sides and then decide whether to uphold the law prior to the November general election, when more than 200,000 people in Virginia could have their voting rights stripped away again.
In addition to depriving convicted felons of the right to vote in the upcoming Presidential election, the lawsuit filed with the court also seeks to revere the voting registrations of 5,800 people in Virginia who have registered to vote since April, when the executive order went into effect.
It has been argued by some that the efforts of Virginia Republicans to get the voting rights law overturned is not based on principle, but rather is a naked attempt to protect GOP politicians by ensuring that Democrat-leaning minority voters are unable to cast votes in future elections.
To learn more, check out the Gawker.com article, “Virginia Republicans May Strip the Right to Vote from 200,000 People Who Just Got It Back.”
In New Jersey, people convicted of certain crimes, including felonies, lose their voting rights and other privileges until the completion of their sentence and/or probation. The truth is that a criminal conviction in NJ could have a number of other negative consequences as well. That’s why anyone charged with a criminal offense needs a qualified criminal defense attorney on their side. Contact the Law Firm of Stephen R. Piper today for a free consultation about your case.