Special to the Mirror by Eastern Shore Democrats
ACDC members Debra and Ricky Wharton, Mary Holden and Al McKegg attended a ceremony in Norfolk on April 27 celebrating Governor McAuliffe’s Felon Rights Restoration effort. At the ceremony, Governor McAuliffe announced he has individually restored the rights of 156,000 Virginians – more than any Governor in American history. His case-by-case restoration project was necessitated by the Virginia Supreme Court striking down his original blanket restoration order in a sharply divided 4-3 decision.
It’s also notable that the Governor has issued more vetoes than any governor in Virginia’s history, and that none were overridden. This is a stark indicator of the crucial role that the Governor like the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, a Democrat elected statewide–plays in countering the regressive actions of the Virginia General Assembly, which is dominated by Republicans elected in gerrymandered districts.
Like all Democratic election activities, the Restoration of Rights project focuses on expanding voter participation broadly, and stands in stark contrast to Republican efforts to disfranchise anybody unlikely to vote their way. The project’s impact is also profoundly personal, providing a route and a stamp of approval for ex-felons reintegrating into society.
The impact of restoration is well-illustrated by the words of Robert Lee Wise, shown above receiving his certificate from Governor McAuliffe as Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson looks on.
Asked what it meant to have his rights restored, Mr. Wise, an Eastern Shore native who operates a successful trucking business in Virginia Beach, responded, “It means that society has given me another chance and I can start over again in society and exercise my civic duty. A lot of times people do not get a second chance. … Restoration of my rights means that my life is now ‘whole’ as not only have I started over again spiritually, occupationally and in other aspects of my life, now I have started over again in fulfilling my civic duties and responsibilities.”