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Case against VA law barring felons from voting will go forward

After the Civil War, Virginia was allowed to send representatives to Congress, but the state had to agree to certain rules according to Andrea Fenster, a Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia.

“Under the terms that Virginia was re-admitted into the U.S. Congress after the Civil War there were only a handful of common law felonies that Virginia citizens could lose their right to vote for,” she explains.

Specifically, the law mentioned murder and mayhem, robbery, rape and arson, but it did not include drug crimes on the list of felonies for which a vote could be denied.

Today, more than one in ten Black Virginians cannot cast a ballot.

“This is largely just Jim Crow under a new name,” Fenster concludes.

The ACLU will be allowed to make that case in federal district court, and its attorneys will meet with a judge to discuss the timeline next week.

“We’re hoping this will move forward relatively quickly so that Virginians who are currently disenfranchised because of felony convictions can vote in the upcoming election,” Fenster adds.

She can’t say how many people might regain the right to vote, but there are currently more than 300,000 Virginians who are disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief