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Felon rights restoration gone for session after proposal fails in subcommittee

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee has failed to act on legislation that would have amended the state constitution to restore the rights of non-violent felons who have paid their debt to society.

The measure was a priority for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who is in his final year of office and cannot run for reelection. The Republican governor’s administration has championed felon rights restoration, and McDonnell has touted a streamlined process that has led to a record number of felons who have been re-enfranchised during his tenure.

Currently, the power to restore rights to felons rests solely with the governor.

“I believe strongly in second chances, redemption and opportunity,” McDonnell said in a statement. “And I will remain committed to using our efficient, fair and expeditious restoration process to its fullest extent in order to restore as many rights as possible to our fellow Virginians who have served their time, paid their dues and deserve to fully rejoin our democracy.”

The Senate approved the bill last month by a 30 to 10 vote. The House killed nine other bills addressing felon rights restoration this session.

The House Privileges and Elections subcommittee on Monday recommended no action by voice vote on the measure.

Opponents of the legislation expressed concerns about blanket restoration, and said that the governor’s rejection of some applications is evidence that automatic restoration may not be a good idea.

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