Lawsuit Challenges Youngkin's Limits On Felon Voting Rights
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A discretionary process being used by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to decide which felons can get their voting rights back is unconstitutional and could lead to decisions based on an applicant’s political affiliations or views, a lawsuit filed Thursday argued.
Youngkin's administration recently confirmed it had shifted away from an at least partly automatic rights restoration system used by his predecessors. The current process conditions the right to vote “on the exercise of unfettered official discretion and arbitrary decision-making," in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit argued.
"Officials with absolute authority to selectively enfranchise U.S. citizens with felony convictions may grant or deny voting rights restoration applications for pretextual reasons or no reason, while secretly basing their decision on information — or informed speculation — on the applicant’s political affiliations or views," says the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Richmond.
In Virginia, a felony conviction automatically results in the loss of a person’s civil rights, such as the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office and carry a firearm. The governor has the sole discretion to restore those civil rights, apart from firearm rights, which must be restored by a court.
The lawsuit was filed by the Washington-based Fair Elections Center on behalf of Gregory Williams, a convicted felon who has completed his sentence and has a restoration application pending, and Nolef Turns, a Richmond-based nonprofit that advocates for people with felony convictions.