Monday, January 14, 2013

Open Letter to Delegate Miller Re: Bill to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

Dear Delegate Miller:

I was very disappointed to hear that the House of Delegates subcommittee did not pass the proposal to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent, former felons, something Gov. Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly favor.  Having taught in the Manassas Regional ADC and taken part in various civic organizations that have followed voting rights for former felons, I know that denying voting rights to people who have served time or probation, or who have paid fines, only further disenfranchises them, encouraging recidivism.  When people--felons or not--know that they are locked out of a system meant to protect our Constitutional rights, they are not encouraged to become positively engaged in the community.  And while some might argue that a former felon can regain voting rights by filling out a simple form, that is just not true.  The layers of bureaucracy involved, leading all the way to necessitating the Governor's signature, is overwhelming, especially to at-risk individuals who have had to struggle with poverty, lack of education, abuse, mental health issues, addiction, etc. 

I am not sure why Virginia is so behind the times when it comes to restoring voting rights when most of the country has laws defending former felons, but I think it is self destructive and dangerous for any government made up of elected officials to ban large portions of the population from voting.  If we want to remain a nation protected by democracy and the Constitution, we must make every effort to be as inclusive as possible.

Thank you for your time.

Your Constituent,

Katherine M. Gotthardt
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