Editorial -- Richmond Times-Dispatch
Voting Rights: McDonnell to China | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Voting Rights: McDonnell to China
By Staff Reports
Published: May 22, 2010
If Tim Kaine had done what Bob McDonnell just has, liberals would be clapping him on the back and right-wingers would be screaming bloody murder. Lowering the hurdles between ex-cons and the restoration of their voting rights is something you'd expect from a bleeding-heart liberal, not an ex-military conservative.
McDonnell's proposal doesn't go as far as civil-rights and civil-liberties groups would like. They'd prefer to see felons regain their voting rights when they walk out the prison gates, as they do elsewhere. Virginia's requirement that felons petition the governor presents a steep barrier, and there certainly is a reasonable argument to be made that a convict who has served his time has paid his debt to society -- so society should not continue punishing him after his release.
On the other hand, felons face other infringements on their rights and liberties long after incarceration. Unless advocates are prepared to argue that felons ought to be relieved of all such restrictions, then they have a harder job making the case that they should be relieved of only some of them.
Regardless, expediting the appeals process makes good sense. Applicants deserve a quick yes or no. They shouldn't be left in bureaucratic limbo. The McDonnell administration deserves credit for improving the restoration process. Like Nixon going to China, it's something that a liberal Democrat would have taken a lot more heat for, regardless of the merits. Let's hope it also indicates that McDonnell is open to the restorative model of justice -- which offers promise as a means of breaking the cycle of crime and repairing society by reintegrating offenders.