VA felons reinstated voting rights

Over 200,000 convicted now able to cast vote in upcoming election

McAulife's executive order has prompted criticism as many believe it was a tactic to increase votes for Hillary Clinton.

ALEXANDRIANEWS.ORG

McAulife's executive order has prompted criticism as many believe it was a tactic to increase votes for Hillary Clinton.

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Virginia’s governor Terry McAulife has officially restored the voting rights of over 200,000 felons through an executive order in late April.

Any Virginian who has ever committed a felony and has served his or her imprisonment, parole, or probation time, to vote.

The felons who have been given their rights back include those that have committed violent crimes such as murder and rape.

However, the crime that these citizens have committed should not play a factor in whether or not they can cast a ballot in deciding who their nation’s leaders are. Even if the crimes held any significance, according to the Washington post, 80 percent of the crimes committed by these felons were non violent.

Along with voting, eligible felons will also now be able to serve on a jury, run for public office, and become a notary public. However, it is important to recognize that the signing of the executive order has deeper historical roots that are apparent.

McAuliffe’s order has reversed a century old racist voting flaw in Virginia’s state constitution. During the Reconstruction the 1902 constitution was written and ratified with ways intended to prevent African Americans from gaining political power.

Clearly, Virginia was highly influenced by the racist Jim Crow Laws that ran rampant among the southern states.

In the disenfranchising constitution, restricting the voting rights of convicted criminals was one of the tactics used and targeted against African Americans.

The tough restoration of voting regulations in Virginia has created a huge racial divide in voting privileges.

The effects of prejudice can still be seen today. According to the Sentencing Project, over two million (or eight percent) of African Americans cannot vote due to tainted records compared to the less than two percent of non African Americans.

How is it that there is such a wide gap among the races in the realm of voting that still exists over a hundred years after the Civil War?

There is no excuse for the parts of the constitution which include poll tax and literacy test to be legitimate in today’s society.

Virginia had one of the most restrictive voting rules for the convicted. Prior to the executive order, felons were barred from voting for life. The new order has shown that Virginia is taking a step in the right direction and is willing to move away from its racist past.

Other states should follow suit in Virginia’s footsteps and those who have served their punishment to society should be given this basic right back.

“If they have served their time, I don’t see a reason why not,” sophomore Ingrid Guardado said. “They deserve to live like a normal citizen.”

Taking away the voting rights of past felons will only make the process of their reentry to society more difficult.One of the primary causes as to why there is a high percentage of criminals recommitting  a crime is because the sense of strong disconnect and exclusion from society.

Not only has the executive order affected the past, it will play an important factor in the current 2016 presidential election cycle.

According to the Sentencing Project, an estimated number of over 5.85 million Americans do not have the right to vote due to standing felony convictions on their records.

McAuliffe has stated that he had no intentions of affecting the 2016 general elections. However, he has publicly supported and rallied for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe  said that he did not discuss his plans with Clinton’s campaign.

This executive order will only benefit the democratic party in the elections and is obvious that it will help Clinton to gain Virginia, which a swing state.

The Sentencing Project has also said that one in five  adult Virginians cannot vote. A majority of convicted felons in Virginia are democratic, which will largely benefit Clinton’s campaign.

If all of the felons take advantage of their reinstated voting rights in the upcoming election, the chances of Virginia voting democratic for the third consecutive time is extremely high.

Regardless of its political impact on voting day in November, the executive order is a step in the right direction in both decreasing the racial gap in voting, as well as aiding ex convicts in reincorporating themselves back into society.

Everybody deserves a second chance, especially those who have paid the price for crimes and accepted the punishments for their wrongdoings.

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