Public Comments for: HB416 - Constitutional amendment; qualifications of voters and the right to vote (voter referendum).
I strongly support a Right to Vote amendment, a constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote to all Virginians upon release from prison. This corresponds to the following bills: HB 130, HB 416, HB 795, HJ 9 and HJ 72. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, would restore the right to vote to over 250,000 Virginians who served their time but are still denied a voice in their government. Virginia is one of only two states that permanently takes away the right to vote from people with felony convictions, including those who have served their time, unless the Governor restores their right. This is retrograde and unacceptable. Pass these bills!
Delegate Head, members of this subcommittee. My name is Chris DeRosa. I am the leader of the Arlington/Falls Church chapter of Spread the Vote, a 501c3 organization that is powered by volunteers in our community. I am writing to ask for your support of HJ9 (and identical bills HJ28 and HJ72) and report it to the full P&E committee with a recommendation that the committee report the bill to the full House of Delegates for a floor vote. Our volunteers have worked with dozens of returning citizens who wanted their voting rights restored. Almost all believed that their civil rights had been lost permanently, for life. Many were surprised to find out that they could have been voting for as many as 5 or 6 years because their rights had already been restored. For various reasons – homelessness, lack of access to the internet - they had not been notified. They had no clue. For years, they were denied access to one of their fundamental rights. Even now, these returning citizens must complete all terms of their sentence, including probation, and “beg” the Governor for restoration. It’s estimated that nearly 6% of registered voters in Virginia cannot vote because of a felony conviction. That’s nearly 400,000 voters. Even now, 12,000 Virginia voters are disenfranchised every year. That is wrong. They return to their communities after serving their sentences, and yet they cannot vote for the officials who will make laws and set budgets that affect their lives as well as the lives of their family and friends. We have come to realize that the disenfranchisement language in our Constitution was an attempt (a successful one) to suppress the vote of Black Virginians and other people of color. It’s the hateful vestige of Jim Crow laws from the late 1800s and early 1900s as represented by the words of Delegate Carter Glass : (we will) “discriminate to the very extremity… permissible… under the Federal Constitution, with a view to the elimination of every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally…” Most of those who are disenfranchised are, indeed, people of color. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Black men in Virginia cannot vote because of felony disenfranchisement. This is a form of racial injustice. And keep in mind, many were trapped by the extremely low felony threshold of $200 that persisted for 38 years, from 1980 until 2018. If you stole a phone or pair of shoes worth $201 in early 2018, you were charged with a felony. Yes, if you steal, you should be punished; but the punishment should not include permanent disenfranchisement. Virginians don’t lose their first Amendment rights or their right to an attorney while they are accused, convicted, or imprisoned. Why do we take away their voting rights? Let us end permanent disenfranchisement in Virginia. Please vote YES on HJ9 (and HJ28 and HJ72) as well as companion referendum bills HB130, 416 and 795. Let the voters of Virginia vote on the proposed amendment in November 2022.
The Virginia League of Conservation Supports HB130, HB416, HB795, HB796, HJ9, HJ28 and HJ72. It is time for Virginia to pass the Constitutional Amendment that allows for the restoration of civil rights in the Commonwealth. Virginia LCV supports expanding access and Virginia is 1 of only 3 states that permanently disenfranchises voters. It is time that we as a Commonwealth move past this Jim Crow era law and catch up with the rest of the nation on this issue. This should not a partisan political issue but a chance that our values as a Commonwealth match the laws we have on the books.
I strongly support HB 130, HB 416, HB 795, HJ 9 and HJ 72 - the constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote to all Virginians upon release from prison. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, would restore the right to vote to over 250,000 fellow Virginians who have served their time but are still denied a voice in their government. Right now, Virginia is one of two states that permanently takes away the right to vote from people with felony convictions, including those who have served their time, unless the Governor restores their right. The current resolution, which takes away the right to vote for life for all former felons unless restored by the Governor, was an intentionally racist decision that we must revert. When written into the constitution in 1902, this amendment was meant to “eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State.” Within a year of the new constitution being put in place, the number of registered African-American voters decreased by 85%. 65% of Virginians agree that everyone deserves a second chance. I strongly support the right to vote amendment because no one should be kept from participating in our democracy.
I'm writing in support of HB 416, the voter referendum. Incarcerated felons who have paid their debt to society by serving their time and have returned to society should be able to vote. Participation in our democracy is a right of every citizen and an important civic activity. Being able to vote allows returning citizens to participate in community life and encourages engagement in other aspects of good citizenship. 64% of Virginians support this referendum. Please pass the referendum as written so that it can be on the ballot this coming November. Let the voters decide this issue then.
I am in support of house pill 416. I believe it is right of every citizen to vote in all elections. Access to voting in a manner that does not place barriers to legal voting is essential for our democracy.
I strongly support HB 130, HB 416, HB 795, HJ 9 and HJ 72 - the constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote to all Virginians upon release from prison. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, would restore the right to vote to over 250,000 fellow Virginians who have served their time but are still denied a voice in their government. I am a college professor who works with first year students on civic responsibility, and we talk about both the right and responsibility of voting. Virginia lags behind the rest of the country in granting these rights to formerly incarcerated people--Virginians deserve to live in a state where every single voice matters and each of us has the opportunity to be represented in our government. My students know this truth and I am hoping that this house will follow suit.
I hope you will pass this Constitutional amendment. Every person who meets the qualifications set forth in the Constitution should have the fundamental right to vote in the Commonwealth of Virginia and that such right shall not be abridged by law. -Returning citizens who have served their time, should be able to vote - Voting is an important civic engagement and increases participation in community life - There is bipartisan support - 65% of Virginians support Please let voters have a say at the ballot box whether to pass this legislation Thank you for protecting the right to vote!
It's time to let Virginian’s decide this issue. I strongly support HB 130, HB 416, HB 795, HJ 9, and HJ 72 - the constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote upon release from prison. NOBODY SHOULD BE DENIED THE RIGHT TO VOTE FOR LIFE. If someone has served their time, they should have their rights restored; 65% of Virginians agree that everyone deserves a second chance. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, needs to pass one more time in order for it to be on the 2022 ballot.
I strongly support HB130, HB795, HJ9 and HJ72. The automatic and full restoration of voting rights for people upon release from incarceration is long overdue. The current system disproportionately affects people of color. Denying the right to vote to those who have served time within the prism of an already systemically and historically racist incarceration system is geared at furthering disenfranchisement and suppressing their voice. Supporting these bills should not be controversial - they are essential.
I strongly support the full restoration of voting rights for people that have served their sentence, as stated in HB 130, 416, and 795 and HJ 9 and HJ 72 - the constitutional amendment automatically to restore the right to vote upon release from prison. The current system that denies former felons the right to ever vote again disproportionately impacts persons of color and serves to perpetuate systemic and structural racism. One’s voting rights should be automatically restored upon the person’s release from incarceration. We are a system built on the right for each person to cast their vote equally. Once a person has completed the sentence for their crime, they should not continue to be punished in perpetuity. We expect formerly incarcerated persons to become fully engaged members of society upon their release, so how can we continue to unfairly disadvantage them by denying them the right to vote and have their voices heard? Please ensure these bills are passed in this General Assembly session so that we may begin to address historical inequity and systemic racism.
I strongly support HB 130, HB 416, HB 795, HJ 9 and HJ 72 - the constitutional amendment to automatically restore the right to vote upon release from prison. Mass incarceration has served as modern-day slave labor for this state and country, many unjustly placed being bars due to widespread systemic racism and injustice. Virginia can’t continue to be one of two states that denies the right to vote for life to anyone, unless their rights are restored by the Governor. If someone has served their time, they should have their rights restored; 65% of Virginians agree that everyone deserves a second chance. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, needs to pass one more time in order for it to be on the 2022 ballot. It is time to let Virginians decide.
I am Diane Shea and live in south Stafford County, 22406. I am writing to say that I believe that citizens returning from prison after serving their sentences should be allowed to vote without restriction. Voting is not only the constitutional right of all citizens, but is also an important way to help develop civic engagement for ex-felons who are resuming their participation in community life. As you know, there is bi-partisan support for HB 416, and 65% of Virginians support giving citizens the right to decide in the next election whether the Virginia constitution should be amended, allowing returning citizens who have paid their debt to society be given their right to vote automatically restored. Thank you for your consideration.
Anyone who serves their time should have their rights restored with no other qualifications or penalties.
As a resident of Roanoke County (24018), a retired pastor, and a member of the League of Women Voters (Roanoke Valley), I urge the support of HB130 and HB416. This united measure has bipartisan support along with the support of 65% of Virginians. Automatically restoring the right to vote continues the work of rehabilitation which is the primary goal of our criminal justice system. Returning citizens who have this right restored and subsequently vote are less likely to re-offend and more likely to find the fullness of life and prosperity that we all wish for every citizen of the state of Virginia. Please continue the process begun in 2021 that will allow me the privilege of voting for this constitutional amendment in November. Thank you.
Voting is a right and responsibility for all citizens!
I strongly support this bill as a way of encouraging civic engagement by returning citizens and because it's the right thing for Virginia. Everyone deserves a second chance.
All citizens deserve the right to vote. Those who have served their time should have their voting rights restored. This important civil rights issue is supported by 65% of Virginians. Let them have their say on this issue at the ballot box.
Please support HB416! Voting is an important civic engagement and increases participation in community life. Returning citizens who have served their time should be aloud to vote.
Election Integrity guarantees our voice is heard and the we can trust the system. It is foundational to the backbone of this country. It has been my astonishing revelation that this most SACRED of all abilities - believed to be held UP- in such esteem and REVERENCE yet in reality is trampled upon, disrespected and disgraced , given away with no value whatsoever in order to game the system. It is totally and completely unprotected. IT is UNTRUE. This reminds me of the snake oil salesmen who came into towns in the early days selling fakery and un-truths. As the American people come learn the truth - it IS happening now folks, make no mistake, they will ask the leadership to answer for this'd hold you accountable for this bait and switch. WE need real election integrity for LEGAL CITIZENS ONLY. WE NEED PRISTINELY CLEAN VOTER ROLLS. Here is the list of what we must do to repair and restore the trust of the American People. Establish laws enabling forensic audits and voter canvass Repeal same day voter registration Repeal no voter identification Repeal the permanent absentee ballot list Repeal no-excuse AB Repeal 3rd party mailing of AB Repeal ballot harvesting Eliminate AB drop boxes. We also want 1 day of voting, but anything less than 45 days would be better than nothing. Do not accept AB after Election DAY. Repeal pre-registration of 16 year olds Repeal automatic voter registration by DMV Please vote appropriately on ALL bills in support of these goals. Angela Boyer Great Falls Va 22066
As an educator, mother, voter, active member of my community, and resident of the city of Suffolk in this great Commonwealth, I strongly support HB416 and HB130. It is paramount that exfelons are able to rejoin society as active and engaged members. This includes regaining their right to vote immediately upon release without a potential "poll tax." This premise is supported by the majority of Virginia's from both sides of the aisle. Give the citizens of Virginia a chance to vote on this issue at the ballot box.
My name is Dede Goldsmith and I live in Abingdon VA 24210. I write in support of HB416 because I feel that returning citizens who have served their time in fail should be able to vote. As voting members of society, they can more easily assimilate back into their communities and engage in other aspects of civic life. In my discussions with friends and family, there seems to be bi-partisan support. Please work to pass this bill. Thank you.
Please support HB 416. Those who have served time for crimes should be able to vote upon release. Voting is participating in civil society, the kind of activity that those who have served time should do to increase community. There is bipartisan support for the issue with 65% of Virginians support it. Voters should have a say at the ballot box on this issue. Anne Brennan Williamsburg, VA
I support both HB130 and HB416. Voting is an important part of being an American, and those that have served their time should be given back the right to vote. We should not continue to punish those who have been convicted of a felony by stripping away their rights. Since voting is so fundamental to American society, let the voters have a say at the ballot box.
As a voter, taxpayer, a social justice advocate for SALT, and a member of a faith community, I firmly support the restoration of voting rights for those that have been released from prison. Punishment of the incarcerated should end once they have served their time. All rights should then be restored. I fully support the following statement posted on the ACLU web site: "Access to the ballot box is the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet Virginia is one of two states that permanently takes away the right to vote from people with felony convictions, including those who have served their time. These returning citizens pay taxes, are contributing members of society, and could be your neighbor. They have completed their sentence, been held accountable for their crime, and been deemed not to be a threat to public safety, yet have a lifetime ban on voting. That’s double jeopardy – punishing people for crimes for which they’ve already paid their debt. Taking away the right to vote should never be used as a punishment for crime." This decision to restore voting rights should not be left solely in the hands of whoever is the governor of Virginia.
I am writing in support of HB416. The right to vote is the most important right of citizenship, and those who have paid their debt to society should be able to access this right. People can alter their lives and should be welcomed back into the community. In addition, changing the current prohibition on voting by persons found to be mentally incompetent to apply to persons who have been found to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting is also more than merely editing wording. It is also an important meaningful change.
I support HB 416.
I am supporting HB 416 that will allow returning citizens who have served their time be able to vote. Voting is an important civic engagement and increases participation in community life. There is bipartisan support 65% of Virginians support Lets voters have a say at the ballot box whether to pass this legislation. Thank you for your support, Sharon McGlone
I support HB416 because I believe voting is a responsibility as well as an inherent right. Returning citizens should be encouraged to take up their civic responsibilities so that they become invested in a strong, well-governed community. This will help prevent recidivism. While registering people to vote I have met people who needed to have their right restored and I have seen the joy when someone learns that he is now eligible to register. Sixty-five percent of Virginians across the political spectrum agree that returning citizens should be able to vote. Virginia voters should have the opportunity to pass the constitutional amendment. I ask you to support this bill and the constitutional amendment.
I strongly support HB 416 to restore voting rights automatically and immediately to returning citizens after they have completed their sentences and have repaid their debt to society. Returning citizens who have served their time should be able to vote; voting is a sign of civic engagement and increases participation in community life. There is bipartisan support with 65% of Virginians supporting automatic restoration of this important and fundamental civic right. The proposed constitutional amendment to correct this vestige of Virginia's Jim Crow past is long overdue- let Virginians decide to end this offensive legacy.
Voting should be simple, quick, and accesible to everyone. We have a lot of elderly and/or disabled residents, people who don't have access to a car, or members of the military serving overseas. Our legislators in Richmond should be working to make every Virginia's voice is heard. In addition, returning citizens should be eligible to vote once their sentence is completed. If they've served their time in prison as determined by a judge and/or jury, no purpose is served by denying them the right to vote.
I strongly support HB 130, 416, and 795 - the constitutional amendment automatically to restore the right to vote upon release from prison. This amendment, which passed in identical form last year, would finally reverse the last of the racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws in Virginia- the provision in the 1902 Virginia constitution that provides for lifetime disenfranchisement upon conviction of a felony unless restored by the Governor. In support of the 1902 provision, Carter Glass stated that this would prevent “the darkies” from voting. Indeed, in just one year after the provision became effective, the number of black registered voters dropped precipitously. Virginia must not continue to be one of the very few states that denies the right to vote for life to anyone. Nor should any Governor be given plenary power to determine who can and cannot vote. Governors of both parties have exercised this power arbitrarily and capriciously. One Democratic Governor denied an application for restoration because the applicant had “moving violations.” One Republican Governor demanded applicants to describe their “church activities” in considering whether to restore the right to vote. Studies show that people who are denied the right to vote are more likely to reoffend. Once people are released into the community after completing a period of incarceration, they should be able to exercise the most precious right we have in a democracy - the right to vote.
I urge the Committee to approve the constitutional amendment and related bills on the restoration of voting rights for persons convicted of a felony who have completed their sentences, HJ28 and HB416 (Del. Herring), HJ9 and HB130 (Del. Cherry), and HJ72, HB795, and HB796 (Del. Price). As Delegate Cherry said in a recent article, "My faith teaches me that people make mistakes, and they can be redeemed from those mistakes and become, in this case, contributing members to society again. I don’t think we should impose lifetime restrictions and punishments on people when the courts did not deem it necessary to give them a life sentence." My own faith teaches me the same lessons. The restoration of voting rights should be automatic upon a person's release from incarceration and should not be left up to the inclinations of whoever the governor may be at the time. Such restoration tells the person that he or she has been accepted back into society and is expected to fulfill his or her civic responsibilities while enjoying the rights of citizenship. Thank you for considering my views.
Virginia enacted several new voting laws in 2020 and 2021 to make voting more accessible during the pandemic. Early in-person voting hours were increased, mail-in absentee ballots no longer required a witness signature, more drop-box locations were available. These changes led to record voter turnout (with insignificant fraud) in both the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 gubernatorial election. Therefore I oppose any new bill that would restrict our rights to accessible voting.
Voting is a constitutional right. Any law that restricts rather than expands our constitutional right & DUTY to vote is simply voter suppression. We must not repeal any expansions of absentee ballots. Do not decrease early voting. - extend the number of days allowed. Do not eliminate any ballot box locations- expand. We have no need to re-register absentee ballots every year. No excuse absentee voting is absolutely crucial. The state must provide easy and free access to voter ID if a photo is required. Since the USPS has slowed considerably, we must keep the 3 day rule for receiving ballots after election day. All local elections must be on Election Day (in Nov). Election Day should be a holiday. Until we do a complete overhaul of campaign finance & eliminate dark money/special interests there must be no restrictions on outreach, education & registration or from where a candidate may collect funds. Voter registration up to and including Election Day is absolutely crucial to ensure all citizens vote. I support all bills expanding our rights and abilities to make voting as easy as possible. I oppose all bills attempting to restrict any access to our ballot and our vote. The process is too important for the elected officials to be able to restrict us from our duty to be informed voters. Keep expanding our rights. Do not restrict, suppress or subvert them.