Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, issued a proclamation in April restoring the voting rights of felons in the state who had served their sentences. He intends to issue such proclamations—which also cover the right to run for office, serve on a jury, and act as a notary public—monthly.
Virginia law permits the governor to restore the rights of convicted felons at his discretion, and the previous governor, Republican Bob McDonnell—himself now a convicted felon—had also worked to simplify the restoration of the right to vote.
Only two states, Vermont and Maine, permit felons to vote even when they are in prison, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Iowa, felons permanently lose their right to vote, while Kentucky and Florida, like Virginia, offer restoration of voting rights by executive order.
A 2014 Reason-Rupe poll found 73 percent of Americans in favor of restoring voting rights for nonviolent drug offenders.