VA Man Exonerated in Rape Planned to Vote, But His Record Blocks Him


Bennett Barbour, reed-thin from cancer and numb from morphine, was looking forward to voting for the first time next month in Virginia, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He planned to take a voter card issued Sept. 14 with him to his Charles City County polling place after his recent exoneration for a wrongful 1978 rape conviction. He fears he might die before he is compensated for his wrongful imprisonment, but he was confident that he would be able to vote Nov. 6. In May, Barbour won the third writ of actual innocence based on DNA evidence ever granted by the Virginia Supreme Court

“It’s scary but it’s exciting because that was something I wanted to do. [ ] That’s the way my father raised me,” Barbour said. Now, Barbour has learned that he is not eligible to vote. That’s because although he was fully exonerated of rape, he still has several less-serious felony convictions on his record. When his lawyers learned that Barbour had registered, they advised him not to vote. “I feel terrible about it because I had never voted and that was my right and duty to vote, and now I can’t do it,” he said. Virginia is one of 11 states where voting rights are not automatically restored to felons at some point after serving sentences. In Virginia, only the governor can restore the right for felons.

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