GOP Knocks Va. Democrats' Registrations

By Tim Craig and Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 24, 2008

RICHMOND -- Virginia Republicans opened up two fronts in the increasingly testy battle over the voting process Thursday by accusing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of stacking the registration rolls with felons and raising concerns that county registrars were not allowing some members of the military who are serving overseas to vote.

With polls showing the presidential race tight in Virginia, Sen. John McCain's campaign and state Republicans are going on the offensive by accusing Democrats of threatening the integrity of the balloting process.

The GOP effort mirrors the acrimony nationwide about efforts by outside groups and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's campaign to increase voter participation.

On Thursday, the McCain campaign accused Kaine (D), a co-chairman of Obama's campaign, of restoring voting rights for almost 1,500 felons in an effort to help Obama win Virginia's 13 electoral votes.

"This is a question of judgment," said Trey Walker, McCain's mid-Atlantic regional campaign manager. "Senator Obama and Governor Kaine have assembled a felonious coalition of attempted murderers, kidnappers, rapists, armed robbers and wife beaters in order to win Virginia. This dangerous lack of judgment has no place in the White House."

Delacey Skinner, Kaine's communications director, accused the McCain campaign of "desperation."

"It is absurd for the McCain campaign to suggest that the restoration-of-rights process is being used for political gain," Skinner said. "It is reprehensible that the campaign would imply that Democrats are criminals, or suggest that nonviolent offenders who have served their time and fulfilled the requirements to have their rights restored should be denied the opportunity to participate in this election."

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from a GOP legislator, Kaine released the names this week of 1,484 felons whose voting rights were restored this year.

Under Virginia's constitution, people convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote, serve on a jury or own a gun. But a governor can restore those rights if he or she believes the felons have redeemed themselves.

Almost all of the people who had their rights restored by Kaine this year are nonviolent offenders who have not committed a new offense within the past three years. Kaine's predecessor, Mark R. Warner (D), restored the rights of about 3,500 nonviolent offenders.

Earlier in the month, GOP operatives pored through the names of the 729 Virginia felons whose rights were restored by Kaine in 2006. Of those, about three dozen have since committed new crimes, almost all of them misdemeanors, according to the GOP.

"The governor, in a wholesale manner, put these people back onto the voting rolls," said Del. William R. Janis (R-Goochland), who filed the FOIA request. "It is clear the Obama campaign, or their agents and representatives, is engaged in a systematic effort to put as many people as possible on the voting rolls who they think will vote for Barack Obama."

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