INTERVIEW: New order aims to restore felon rights faster

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Yesterday Governor Bob McDonnell announced a dramatic change to the process by which ex-felons are given back their right to vote in Virginia. The republican promised that nonviolent felons will be required to complete a simple form to have their rights restored and he vowed that the process will only take 60 days. Joining us to discuss this issue is the Executive Director of the Virginia State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., King Salim Khalfani. Khalfani endorsed the McDonnell plan yesterday.

Ryan Nobles: I think probably there were people that were surprised to see that you've aligned yourself with the governor on this issue. Why do you think that the plan is a good one?
King Salim Khalfani: Because we helped develop it. We had stakeholders at the table. We had persons who were ex-offenders, A.C.L.U., League of Women Voters, and they invited input from the stakeholders so we got a buy-in and we helped shape the policy. But it's something that this governor, even when he was a member of the House of Delegates, a champion when he was a private practicing attorney. He used to represent people. He knows the struggle and he made a commitment that he was going to change the way people have their rights restored. So we think it's a good plan. Now we just have to wait for the results.

Ryan Nobles: Do you think it goes far enough? I mean, there are states that automatically restore the rights of ex-felons. Do you think that's something that should be looked at in Virginia?

King Salim Khalfani: Very much so, but this governor said he's not there yet. Obviously, our House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly is way away from that stage. But as an improvement, 60-day turn around and you can do it on-line and the constituency groups are ready to help anybody that needs help in filling out the forms, writing letters, and anything of that nature.

Ryan Nobles: Why is it important for ex-felons to have their rights to vote restored? Is it important for them to get back into society? What role does that play?

King Salim Khalfani: Participation. No participation, you have no right to eat. In 2010 you might not have the right to eat. People who participate - win. People who participate value their children, the society, so all people should participate. If we could get the people who don't have their rights taken away from them to participate, we would really have something going on.

Ryan Nobles: I wonder in general what your impression is of Governor McDonnell. He's taken some heat from people in the minority community in particular. Do you think that he's done enough to show diversity in his administration and in the policies he's enacted?

King Salim Khalfani: Well, he's been in, what, four months. He's about 100 days in. He's got three-plus more years. So let's look at the results. Let's see and he's got a chance to become a rising star again if he does the right thing by the people of Virginia.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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