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Virginia Governor Announces Right to Vote Restored for Over 22k Felons

Ralph Northam at a campaign stop in Richmond, Va., in October. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday announced that he has restored the voting rights of more than 22,000 convicted felons.

Since taking office in January of last year, the Democratic governor has restored the rights to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office, and become a notary public to 22,205 Virginians with felony convictions, Northam’s office said in a statement.

“Virginia remains one of the few states in the nation that permanently strip individuals of their civil rights after a felony conviction,” Northam said. “I’m proud to use my executive clemency power to restore those rights to Virginians who have completed their sentences and returned to their communities seeking a second chance.”

“This is about doing what is fair and right,” the governor added.

Northam previously announced in February that he had restored voting rights and other civil rights to 10,992 convicted felons.

“Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy,” Northam said at the time.

Northam’s record on restoring voting rights to felons in Virginia is beaten only by his predecessor, former governor Terry McAuliffe, who had restored the civil rights of 173,166 Virginians by the time he left office. McAuliffe had long stressed ending outdated policies from the state’s Jim Crow era as a priority of his administration.

Northam was nearly forced out of office earlier this year when his old yearbook page surfaced, showing a man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another wearing blackface.

As he weathered that scandal, Northam pledged to devote the last three years of his term to promoting racial equality and protecting the rights of black Virginians.

“There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity,” Northam said at the time. “There are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entre­pre­neur­ship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia.”

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