Gov. Robert McDonnell of Virginia is erecting an additional obstacle for nonviolent felons seeking restoration of their voting rights. News broke over the weekend that McDonnell's office is replacing the one-page form previously filed by those seeking a return to suffrage with an essay explaining the circumstances of their conviction, the employment they have obtained post-incarceration, and other contributions to society.
McDonnell's decision drew the ire of civil liberties organizations and African-American community leaders for the second time in a week. His previous gaffe was a celebratory declaration of "Confederate History Month." Under pressure from critics, he apologized for failing to mention slavery in the announcement, which he recognized as "an evil."
The Washington Post recorded reactions to McDonnell's latest decision to anger a host of community leaders, including members of the commonwealth's black caucus:
"It's another roadblock," Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk), a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said when she was told of the change.
Miller has repeatedly introduced unsuccessful bills to allow nonviolent offenders to have their rights restored automatically. "This is designed to suppress the rights of poor people," she said.