Lawsuit Challenging Restoration of Voting Rights in Virginia is Undemocratic, Blatant Attempt to Suppress Ballot Access for Voters of Color
General Assembly Republicans File Suit after Governor Grants Right to Vote to 206,000 Formerly Incarcerated Virginians
WASHINGTON – Today, Virginia General Assembly Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging an April 2016 proclamation issued by Governor Terry McAuliffe that automatically restored the right to vote for all persons with past felony convictions, so long as they are not in prison or on probation or parole. The 206,000 Virginians now eligible to regain the fundamental right to vote are disproportionately from communities of color historically targeted by the criminal justice system. The grassroots group New Virginia Majority and the national racial justice organization Advancement Project released the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed today:
“The disenfranchisement of people who have already served sentences for prior mistakes was an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of The New Virginia Majority. “Instead of celebrating the progress our state has taken to restore the fundamental right to vote for the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who have repaid their debts to society, conservative lawmakers are trying to send our state back to its discriminatory past. By championing an undemocratic legal effort to limit ballot access, General Assembly Republicans are ignoring the will of the public they represent. The majority of Virginians – 63 percent – agree that Governor McAuliffe made the right decision by restoring voting rights for people with prior felony convictions. It is our leaders’ responsibility to uphold the values of an inclusive and just democracy – this lawsuit represents exactly the opposite. Virginians deserve better. Democracy demands better.”
“Laws that disenfranchise voters based on prior mistakes have deeply impacted communities of color who have been targeted by our nation’s broken criminal justice system,” said Eddie Hailes, Jr., Advancement Project general counsel and managing director. “For too long in Virginia, voters of color were disproportionately denied the right to vote by an archaic law rooted in the state’s history of white supremacy. All who believe in freedom and equality should celebrate the Governor’s efforts to restore the right to vote for the 206,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians who have rejoined their communities. Yet instead, conservative lawmakers are trying to strip away this progress. Rather than focusing on the countless benefits of restoring the right to vote – including reduced recidivism rates and the fulfillment of our democratic values – General Assembly Republicans are making it their mission to deny the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of their constituents. This undemocratic and immoral attempt to limit the voting system to the select few cannot be tolerated. Our community is strongest when our democracy is inclusive and representative.”
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New Virginia Majority is the catalytic force for the progressive transformation of Virginia through mass organizing, leadership development, and strategic communications. New Virginia Majority is creating a powerful movement that transforms Virginia by organizing communities of color, women, working people, LGBTs, youth and progressive people. Through continuous purposeful and strategic activity, New Virginia Majority will create a Virginia that is democratic, just and sustainable.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.