Washington, D.C. — Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement in response to the news that nearly 200,000 people with felony convictions will now be eligible to vote in Virginia. The announcement was made today by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
We applaud the governor for restoring the right to vote for 200,000 Virginians today, and for his continued commitment to ensuring voting rights for people with felony convictions as they return to their communities. Now Virginia should follow its neighbor, Maryland, and change its system to restore voting rights to people automatically when they are released from incarceration. Our society is stronger when all voices are heard. We must reject our country’s history of denying certain groups, particularly communities of color, the fundamental right to equal participation in our democracy.
One in three Americans has a criminal record and nearly half of U.S. children have a parent with a criminal record, presenting life-long barriers to opportunity for entire families. The collateral consequences of mass incarceration and the vast numbers of Americans who have criminal records are destructive enough to our nation’s communities. These consequences should not be compounded by denying communities the right to representation and the right to demand accountability from their government officials. Laws that strip voting rights from people with felony convictions have no legitimate purpose, and are counterproductive to the goals of rebuilding lives and building safe and healthy communities.
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