Restoration of voting rights to former felons creates backlog for registrars

Published: Apr. 28, 2016 at 6:19 PM EDT|Updated: May. 8, 2016 at 6:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As more than 200,000 former felons register to vote, Central Virginia registrars are facing challenges in processing their voter applications.

On April 22, Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the rights of those with a prior felony conviction who have completed their sentences and have been released. The restoration of rights will allow them to have the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to run for office, and to become a notary public.

According to Richmond Registrar J. Kirk Showalter, just over 100 convicted felons registered to vote in her office this week. Those applications, though, are currently sitting in a pile for the time being.

In order to verify their status, the registrar must run the applicant's name in a state database updated by the Secretary of the Commonwealth. With the names of 206,000 convicted felons needing to be added to that database, it's created a backlog in applications at the local level.

"Be patient! There are an additional 200,000 names that have to be uploaded to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's website to be a searchable tool," explained Clovia Lawrence. In 2004, Lawrence launched the Rolling for Freedom Project, aimed at getting convicted felons the restoration of rights.

"It was a 13-page application at the time. Our first event, we had hundreds show up," said Lawrence, who worked with lawmakers to change the process.

She stressed the fact that those former felons now have the ability to vote, run for office, be on a jury, and become a public notary, the process will just take some time to work itself out.

"The one thing I want everyone to know, if you have completed incarceration, you have been released by probation and parole, you have met that criteria, as of April 22, you are eligible to register to vote," she stated.

Based on emails sent to them from the state, local registrars worry it could take anywhere from 90 days to a year to get the database up to date.

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