Nonviolent felons must now wait two years, instead of three, after completing their sentences to apply to have their right to vote restored in Virginia, Gov. Robert McDonnell announced as he outlined a faster rights-restoration process, reports the Washington Post. McDonnell pledged that his office will act on applications from felons wanting to have their civil rights restored within 60 days of receiving the necessary paperwork from courts and other agencies, a significant acceleration of the process from past governors.
He said he would form a work group to find ways to get courts and probation officers to submit the necessary documents more quickly, a traditional hang-up of the process. In 39 states, voting rights are automatically returned to felons who have completed their sentences. Only Kentucky and Virginia permanently revoke rights upon conviction and leave restoration entirely at the discretion of the governor. McDonnell faced criticism from civil rights groups and others after about 200 nonviolent felons who had applied for rights restoration since he took office Jan. 16 received a notice from his office indicating that he was instituting a new policy requiring them to write a letter explaining their community involvement and justifying their request.