These Ex-Felons Are Psyched They Can Finally Vote Again

Virginia’s outgoing governor re-enfranchised at least 168,000.

Spellman Bernard Smith Jr., 78, sang "America the Beautiful" after voting in Norfolk, Virginia, last fall. Bill Tiernan/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

As Virginians headed to the polls today to decide on their next governor, among them were some of the roughly 168,000 formerly incarcerated individuals who had their voting rights restored by outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat. (Of those, 42,000 were registered to cast ballots.)

This recent re-enfranchisement became a campaign issue last month after Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie released an ad slamming his rival, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, for pledging to continue McAuliffe’s policy of restoring voting rights to former felons who have paid their dues. Virginia is just one four states that permanently bars people from voting if they are convicted of a felony—only the governor can restore those rights.

Because Gillespie has pledged to maintain voting restrictions for anyone with a felony conviction, the rights of thousands of other incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people hinges on who wins this election. (President Donald Trump tweeted in support of Gillespie yesterday.) Huffington Post editor Sam Levine was on the ground in Virginia today and asked a series of people who had their rights restored what it meant for them to cast a vote today—in some cases for the first time. Their responses in the videos below may warm your heart.