Starting this week, it's getting easier for non-violent felons to get back their right to vote.
The process is now automatic for those who have repaid their debt to society. And with new resources, the McDonnell administration is setting its sights high: it hopes to restore the rights of 10,000 non-violent felons by year's end. So far, McDonnell has already restored the rights of 5,200 felons. That means with the implementation of this streamlined process, his administration could end up restoring 15,000 voting rights - more than Virginia's past four governors combined.
"We feel like we'll be able to approve 200 percent of what we've already done in the McDonnell administration," Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly said.
Now, the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office and the state Board of Elections are preparing for an influx of restoration requests.
"The number of restored felons will increase dramatically over the next few months," said Board of Elections spokesman Chris Piper.
But McDonnell's lofty goal relies on a couple of things - outreach and new resources. The administration needs to find thousands of felons who qualify, so it knows whose rights to restore. For past felons who are no longer in the criminal justice system, that could be a problem.
"Because there's no comprehensive database of felons in the state, we are relying on the felons [to contact the state] if we don't know they exist," Kelly said.
As far as resources are concerned, the Secretary of the Commonwealth will hire four new staff members to help process new rights restoration requests. And for the first time, it will begin sharing that information electronically with the state Board of Elections, which until now had to manually enter names of restored felons into its database.
"We get this electronically transmitted, it's going to save the commonwealth money in the end," Piper said.
"Any inefficiencies in the process [Gov. McDonnell] wanted to eliminate completely," Kelly said, "and we feel like this is a big one that we were able to eliminate."
For more information on the changes to the rights restoration process, click here.
With the new guidelines, there are three ways to apply: completing a short mail-in form, applying over the phone at 1-855-575-9177, or completing an online application, which is expected to be available here by August 1.
Watch the second video above, titled "New Steps to Restore Rights," to learn what one man convicted of a felony went through to restore his right to vote before the process was streamlined.
New Resources Streamline Rights Restoration ProcessMore>>
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story
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