Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is on track to restore voting rights to more felons than either of his Democratic predecessors, a surprising development for a conservative Republican who served as a law-and-order attorney general, reports the Washington Post. His administration has approved 780 of 889 applicants, or 88 percent. Under Virginia’s Constitution, residents convicted of a felony automatically lose the right to vote, serve on a jury or own a gun. The governor can restore voting rights to those who he thinks have redeemed themselves. About 300,000 felons in Virginia who have served their time have not had their rights restored.
A governor’s restoration of voting rights is the first step in the process; restoring the rights of gun ownership and jury service is more complex. McDonnell’s Democratic predecessor, Timothy M. Kaine, restored the rights of a record 4,402 felons during his term. Before him, Democrat Mark R. Warner restored the rights of 3,486, while Republicans James S. Gilmore III and George Allen restored rights to 238 and 460 felons, respectively. Republicans have often asserted that Democratic governors restore voting rights to more felons because they are more likely to vote for left-leaning politicians.