Constitutional amendment; qualification of voters, executive clemency (first reference). (HJ542)

Introduced By

Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) with support from 7 copatrons, whose average partisan position is:

Those copatrons are Del. Terry Austin (R-Buchanan), Del. Peter Farrell (R-Henrico), Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville), Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Richmond), Del. John O'Bannon (R-Richmond), Del. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan), Del. Michael Webert (R-Marshall)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate


Constitutional amendment (first resolution); qualification of voters and executive clemency. Provides that no person convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored. The General Assembly shall prescribe by law the process for the automatic restoration of the civil rights of a person who has been convicted of any felony, other than a violent felony, upon such person's completion of service of his sentence and any modification of that sentence, including any period or condition of probation, parole, or suspension of the sentence, and his payment in full of any restitution, fines, costs, and fees assessed against him as a result of his conviction. The Governor retains the authority to remove the political disabilities, i.e., restore the civil rights, of persons convicted of a violent felony upon application by such persons and under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law. However, no person convicted of a violent felony shall be eligible for the removal of his political disabilities until he has completed the payment in full of any restitution, fines, costs, and fees assessed against him as a result of his conviction and at least two years have passed since he completed service of his sentence and any modification of his sentence, including any period or condition of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


09/16/2016Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/17 17100251D
09/16/2016Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/10/2017Assigned P & E sub: Constitutional
01/30/2017Subcommittee recommends laying on the table (4-Y 3-N)
02/08/2017Left in Privileges and Elections


ACLU-VA Voting Rights, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia strongly supports passage of legislation that permanently repeals the felon disenfranchisement provision in the Virginia Constitution and that would automatically restore the civil rights of Virginians convicted of a felony. Legislators should replace the provision with an affirmative right to vote for all Virginians who are citizens of voting age.

Safer Virginia writes:

The overwhelming majority of states either1) restore voting rights automatically upon release from prison or 2) restore voting rights automatically upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation. The General Assembly has placed our Commonwealth in the embarrassing minority of states that disenfranchise their citizens.

In the process of finally doing the right thing in Virginia, I strongly encourage the General Assembly to reevaluate its definitions of violent offenses. About 80% of registered sex offenders are listed publicly for life as violent based on the crime committed, not on any risk assessment. Over 90% of sex offenses are committed by the victim's family, friends and acquaintances, not by registered sex offenders. While listed for life as violent, these citizens are free to live and work among us, trying to remain productive while publicly stigmatized by the Commonwealth for life. And they can't vote.

The General Assembly should seriously consider modifying § 9.1-902. Offenses requiring registration. It may be adequately written for attorneys, but not for the general public. Below is an example of how convoluted the law has become as the General Assembly creates more and more offense categories and attempts to avoid ex post facto challenges. (By the way, that same convoluted situation exists at § 18.2-370.3. Sex offenses prohibiting residing in proximity to children; penalty. Citizens convicted of the same offense have different residence restrictions based on the date of conviction. Residence restrictions have been proven to have no effect on reoffending and should be rescinded.)

B. The offenses included under this subsection include any violation of, attempted violation of, or conspiracy to violate:

1. § 18.2-63 unless registration is required pursuant to subdivision E 1; § 18.2-64.1; former § 18.2-67.2:1; § 18.2-90 with the intent to commit rape; former § 18.1-88 with the intent to commit rape; any felony violation of § 18.2-346; any violation of subdivision (4) of § 18.2-355; any violation of subsection C of § 18.2-357.1; subsection B or C of § 18.2-374.1:1; former subsection D of § 18.2-374.1:1 as it was in effect from July 1, 1994, through June 30, 2007; former clause (iv) of subsection B of § 18.2-374.3 as it was in effect on June 30, 2007; subsection B, C, or D of § 18.2-374.3; or a third or subsequent conviction of (i) § 18.2-67.4, (ii) § 18.2-67.4:2, (iii) subsection C of § 18.2-67.5, or (iv) § 18.2-386.1.

Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are representing The People should be enacting laws that ensure individual freedoms, not restricting civil rights after sentence completion or publicly branding citizens for life because of a specific category of offense. Each year, the General Assembly appears to act as a punitive body, not one that protects civil rights, often disregarding research when passing more legislation that punishes our citizens.

By the way, here's another bill to consider to ensure we maintain our part-time legislature and give it adequate time to debate the bills before it -

A member of the Senate of Virginia or Virginia House of Delegates is permitted to introduce a bill during the current session for every two bills that member introduced, and that were enacted during the previous session, that eliminated sections or subsections of the Code of Virginia.