Virginia felons applaud Governor McAullife's move to restore voting rights

Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 7:20 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2016 at 8:19 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Felons all across Virginia are applauding Governor Terry McAuliffe's restoration of rights announcement.

Richmond business owner Taj Gregory is working to turn his life around and feels encouraged he can also become a part of the political process.

The 37-year-old is doing what he loves at a company he started himself.

"Lawn care, power washing, gutters, hauling if someone needs something moved from point a to point b," he says after jumping off of his lawn mower. "I love to help. That's why I named my business Helping Hands Universal."

But he hasn't always been so optimistic about life. A drug arrest landed him in prison for five and a half years, a sentence that gave him time to re-evaluate things.

"I'm a taxpaying citizen now and I feel I have a voice," he said.

It's why Gregory feels encouraged by Governor McAuliffe's efforts to restore voting rights to 13,000 felons in Virginia.

"Just because someone has made a mistake, if they've paid their debt to society, we think it's important that they be able to participate fully in democracy," said Bill Farrar with the ACLU. It's an issue he has been pushing for quite some time, even though some Republican leaders argue mass restoration of voting rights could the Democratic party a boost. "We've been asking for this for over a decade and it's regardless of who's running for President, who's running for Congress. It's just the right thing to do."

Giving felons like Gregory, who have never voted before, hope that they too can make a difference.

"It lets us know that even though we've done things that a lot of times we wish we hadn't done, it's like we're forgiven. We're given a chance to be heard," he said.

Anyone who wants to register to vote in Virginia - including those felons whose rights have now been restored - must do so by October 17th.

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