The Road to Restoration

Felony disenfranchisement puts this nation on the wrong side of democracy.

Right now, forty-eight states practice laws that block people with felony convictions from exercising the right to vote.

While most states have moved away from permanent disenfranchisement, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky disenfranchise people convicted of felonies for life. But the tide is turning.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has made it a state priority this year to address the disenfranchisement of former offenders. His administration has restored the votes of more than 4,000 Virginians since 2011. Also, last December, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, also a Republican, launched a streamlined application to speed up the state's restoration process for all returning citizens.

And there’s more. States like Delaware, which disenfranchises a small number of former offenders, are trying to take reform a step further. A bill to amend Delaware's Constitution and grant automatic restoration of rights will hit the floor of the state's House of Delegates in March.

Virginia is already making real progress in its short legislative session. Last month the State Senate passed legislation that would amend the state's Constitution to grant automatic restoration of rights to former offenders. But in order to reach the finish line, the House of Delegates, the , and Virginia's voters will have to continue pushing to see the law through the legislature and once it hits the ballot.

Today, as a part of the NAACP's Restore the Vote Campaign, we started a month long informational billboard campaign at the Reagan National Airport Metro station. Our goal is to start a conversation and to make sure that commuters, visitors and Virginia residents realize that it is time to restore the vote for all Americans.

True American values lie within the policies and efforts that protect the voices of all citizens. Restoring the votes of the neighbors, family members, and friends that have paid their debts to society is a necessary step to move us closer to a truly inclusive Democracy.

Check out www.restorethevotes.org for more information on felony disenfranchisement in Virginia and across the country.