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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate