Virginia took another step toward restoring voting rights to felons who have been released from prison. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced on June 23 that the state will no longer require these ex-prisoners to pay outstanding court fees before they can vote again, the Daily Press reports.
He explained that they are still required to pay the fines, fees and restitution they owe. But failure to pay will not prevent them from casting ballots. McAuliffe compared that requirement to a poll tax, which some Southern states used to prevent blacks from voting.
The requirement to pay outstanding court fees had prevented scores of African Americans who served time in prison from voting.
Virginia Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said, “African-American enfranchisement is a national challenge. These changes move the commonwealth forward at a time when voter participation is particularly important to the future economic prosperity of our minority communities,” according to the Daily Press.
In his remarks, McAuliffe noted that Virginia has some of the most restrictive rules that disenfranchise felons. It’s among a handful of states where the government must approve the restoration of voting rights for certain felons, according to the Brennan Center for Justice (pdf).
This isn’t the first time that McAuliffe has instituted a change to the voting-restoration process. Last year he reduced the mandatory waiting period for those convicted of a violent felony to apply to vote again.
Read more at the Daily Press.