In the News
Tammie Hagen, an ex-felon who registers other ex-felons to vote, was fighting an uphill battle during a rough week. Her 44-year-old brother, a longtime drug user, was in intensive care with liver and kidney problems. She was trying to convince her mother to show her brother some tough love about his addiction, but her mother is suffering from Stage 4 breast cancer.
When Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced his plan in April to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons, Abdul-Rahman, who spent nearly two decades behind bars for armed robbery before struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, immediately logged online to check on his voting status.
67,000 Virginia Ex-Felons Just Got Their Voting Rights Back. This Man Wants To Make Sure They Keep Them.
He'd been released from prison seven years earlier, after nearly two decades behind bars for armed robbery, and had spent most of his freedom homeless, drinking and using drugs. Waking up in that graveyard was the wakeup call he needed. He checked himself into a detox facility, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, got clean, and started working as a carpenter.
The Virginia State Board of Elections has extended the deadline to register to vote in Virginia to Friday, according to a spokeswoman for New Virginia Majority, the group that took election officials to court this week after the online voter registration system crashed. The deadline previously was midnight Monday.
Today's Virginia Votes takes us to Richmond -- where half the city's population is African-American. One in five black Virginians have felonies on their record, which means they can't vote. That is, until recently. After a long legal battle, felons in Virginia are slowly gaining the right to vote again.
People convicted of a violent felony would never get their right to vote back in Virginia under legislation proposed Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment. Norment, already locked in a legal battle with Gov. Terry McAuliffe over the restoration of felon voting rights, would also take Virginia's governor completely out of the restoration process.
Having a vote means having a voice, says Tammie Hagen, a community organizer with the New Virginia Majority. That's why she's pounding the pavement, encouraging those who have served time to seek restoration of their rights and register to vote.
Top Republicans in the state legislature are seeking to block Mr. McAuliffe's sweeping order, which re-enfranchised 206,000 Virginians who have completed sentences, probation or parole. Last week, the Supreme Court announced a special session to hear arguments in July - in time to rule before the November election.
Louise Benjamin, 48, looked forward to casting her first ballot in Virginia this November, after Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored her voting rights and those of more than 200,000 other convicted felons who had also completed their sentences. She saw voting as a chance for redemption after serving time for assault charges.
RICHMOND, VA. -- "I'm just overwhelmed," John Barbee said, after he finished filling out a voter registration form in the basement of a Baptist church in Richmond Thursday. The 62-year-old, who was released from prison in 1972, had been trying to register for the past eight years but had been stymied repeatedly by Virginia's strict felony disenfranchisement law.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe's decision to restore the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons has set off a frenzied effort by advocacy groups to register them in the hope they can swing not just the presidential election but also state politics for the next decade.