IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Election Day in Virginia shows Youngkin’s voting rights stance

The Republican governor has made it harder for Virginians coming out of prison to have their voting rights restored.


Tuesday’s primary elections in Virginia serve as a reminder that the state’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, has made it harder for people coming out of prison to have their voting rights restored.

Youngkin halted a decade’s worth of movement in the state toward easier restoration of voting rights, leaving Virginia with an unusually harsh system that presumes anyone convicted of a felony is barred from voting for life — though, in a perverse twist, the governor has the authority to restore those rights on an individual basis.

That’s unsettling enough, but an explanation from someone who helps the governor wield that awesome power isn’t inspiring. Kay Coles James, the secretary of the commonwealth, told a Virginia lawmaker recently that state residents “trust the Governor and his Administration to consider each person individually and take into consideration the unique elements of each situation, practicing grace for those who need it and ensuring public safety for our community and families.”

Think about the implications of that position. Who doesn’t need grace? Much less someone coming out of prison. And what does grace have to do with voting anyway?

Likewise, how could continuing to deny someone the right to vote ensure “public safety for our community and families”? 

The suggestion is that voting itself can be dangerous. Viewed that way, Youngkin is simply toeing the party line.

Subscribe to the Deadline: Legal Blog newsletter for weekly updates on the top legal stories, including news from the Supreme Court, the Donald Trump investigations and more.