How to Get Voting Rights Back for Felons in Virginia

By Jackie Whalen

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A convicted felon may have his voting rights in Virginia restored by having his or her Restoration of Rights Application approved by the state governor. This application asks the state governor to restore a felon's ability to vote, serve on a jury or hold public office, but it doesn't restore firearms rights or clear a criminal record. Only the governor may restore a felon's voting privileges, and if your application is denied, you must wait two years before trying again. To apply, you must be a Virginia resident or have been convicted of a felony by a Virginia court, have paid all fines and restitution, be free from probation and parole and have no felony or misdemeanor charges or convictions for five years.

Go to the court where your felony conviction took place and request certified copies of all felony court orders, sentencing reports and payment receipts for any restitution, fines, or court costs that you owed. The Court Clerk will be able to assist you in locating these documents.

Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and request a copy of your driving record. This is only required if you currently live outside Virginia.

Go to the police department in your area and ask for a certified copy of your criminal record. This is only required if you currently live outside of Virginia.

Ask your probation or parole officer for a letter that details his or her supervision of you. The letter should give details about you, your good character, and how you have turned your life around. The letter should be addressed to the governor.

Get your "Restoration of Rights" application packet from the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can download the application from the Commonwealth of Virginia website. You can also call the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office at 804-692-2531 to have one mailed to you.

Have three people write letters of recommendation for you. The letters, templates for which are included in the "Restoration of Rights" packet, should attest to your good character and may not be written by relatives by blood or marriage. It's recommended that you ask people such as your employer, a clergy member or community leader to write the letters on your behalf.

Write a letter to the governor describing the circumstances surrounding your conviction, why you think your rights should be restored and how you have turned your life around. For example, maybe you do volunteer work or have gone back to school or otherwise become more involved in your community in a positive way.

Fill out the "Restoration of Rights" application. The application asks for your name, date of birth, Social Security number, current contact information, and your prison identification number from the Virginia Department of Corrections. Mail it, along with all supporting documents, to:

Restoration of Rights Secretary of the Commonwealth P.O. Box 2454 Richmond, VA 23218 Applications are reviewed by the governor in the order they are received. Only complete applications are reviewed. The process takes approximately six months and you will be notified by mail of the governor's decision.

About the Author

Based in Buffalo, N.Y., Jackie Whalen has been writing since 2007. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in religious studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently a third-year law student.

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