Public Comments for: HB795 - Constitutional amendment; qualifications of voters and the right to vote (voter referendum).
Last Name: George Locality: Alexandria

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!

Last Name: DeRosa Organization: Spread the Vote/Project ID : Arlington/Falls Church Locality: Arlington

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.

Last Name: Carpenter Organization: Virginia League of Conservation Voters Locality: Chesterfield County

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.

Last Name: Zweerink Locality: Richmond

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.

Last Name: Logan Locality: Richmond

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.

Last Name: Rovnyak Locality: Albemarle

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.

Last Name: Hutchison Locality: Ashburn

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.

Last Name: Hartman Organization: RASR Inc. - Resolutions Addressing Systemic and Structural Racism Locality: Mecklenburg County

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.

Last Name: Sun Locality: Vienna

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.

Last Name: Stewart Organization: SOCIAL ACTION LINKING TOGETHER (SALT) Locality: Chantilly

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.

Last Name: Stephen Spitz Locality: Falls Church, Fairfax County

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.

Last Name: More Locality: Vienna

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.

Last Name: Marie Locality: ARLINGTON

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.

Last Name: Martin Locality: Fairfax

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.

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