February 4, 2021
Debra Freeman, [email protected]
New Virginia Majority Statement on Right To Vote Legislation
The right to vote, to choose our leaders, and to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives is the cornerstone of our democracy and this country. Currently in the General Assembly, there are two options that are moving forward to establish a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. We are pleased to continue the conversation about SJ 272 and HJ 555 as we now take the first step in the multi-year process to change Virginia’s constitution. The time is now to make sure that one's mistakes, compounded by a flawed criminal legal system, doesn't take away their fundamental right to vote.
If approved by a simple majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, the amendments will be re-introduced to the 2022 legislative session. In that session, any amendment approved a second time by the General Assembly will be added to the ballot and voted on in November 2022; if passed, the constitution will be changed.
For over a decade, New Virginia Majority and organizers across the Commonwealth have asked their elected officials to pass a constitutional amendment that will properly support the formerly incarcerated. Christopher Rashad Green, lead organizer for New Virginia Majority said, “After many years of incarceration and disenfranchisement, I am excited about the opportunity for all citizens to participate in the electoral process in Virginia. Being empowered with my voting rights ensures that my voice will be heard through my vote.”
Clyde Young, a recently released returning citizen said, "I want my voting rights so that I can be a part of the process to choose who are our leaders,” and Jesse Forman, who was formerly incarcerated said, "My being able to vote makes me feel like a REAL citizen of Virginia, because before that, I felt like a foreigner."
We are eager to see the Commonwealth turn the page towards a Virginia that reflects all of us - citizens should be able to use their right to vote, and full citizenship means having a voice in government.