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Ex-Felons Pin Voting Hopes on VA Supreme Court

Virginia’s Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether Governor Terry McAuliffe acted constitutionally when he restored voting rights for more than 200,000 ex-felons who had served their time in prison and on parole.   Sandy Hausman talked to one man who is hoping the court backs McAuliffe.

Harold Folley spent four years behind bars for possession of cocaine.  When he was released in the early 90’s, he wanted his civil rights back, so he filled out a 13-page application to the governor.  He says many ex-convicts won’t do that.

“Frankly, a lot of folks who are incarcerated don’t have a high education. It was so difficult for some folks they hired a lawyer to help them figure it out.”

The governor agreed to restore his right to vote, and he thinks others who’ve served their time should be allowed to cast ballots.

“You know 90% of those folks are working, paying taxes, and they don’t have a voice.”

The governor’s decree in April also permits ex-felons to serve on juries – a point that outraged many Republicans, but Harold Folley doesn’t think it’s a problem.

“You know when the prosecuting lawyer is picking the jury, and you say, 'I’ve been convicted of a felony,’ you’re gone! You’re not going to be on the jury.  It’s that simple.”

On the other hand, getting people registered to vote before November could be complicated. 

“We’ve been doing voter registration in Charlottesvville, and 90% of the people we bump into, it’s like, ‘What do you mean I’ve got my rights back?’" Folley explains.  "A lot of those folks don’t even know they have the ability to register to vote.”

Folley, who now works for the grass roots group Virginia Organizing, admits some ex-felons may not care to vote, and others may be waiting on the state supreme court’s ruling which should come in the next few weeks.