Embattled Ralph Northam talks of 'second chances' as he touts civil rights restored to convicted felons

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he “restored the civil rights” of almost 11,000 convicted felons in Virginia, notably stating he believes in second chances as he faces calls to resign amid a blackface scandal.

“I believe in second chances and making our Commonwealth more open and accessible to all,” the Democratic governor said. “Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy. This is an important achievement that marks my administration’s unwavering commitment to fairness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.”

Some civil rights restored to the 10,992 Virginians previously convicted of a felony include the right to vote, serve on a jury, and run for public office.

“Today we announced that during my first year in office, we restored civil rights to over 10,000 Virginians previously convicted of a felony—marking my administration’s commitment to fairness, rehabilitation, and restorative justice,” Northam posted to Twitter.

The statement comes as Northam navigates a controversy stemming from a photo published from his page in his 1984 medical school yearbook showing one man in blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. Northam denied that he was in the photo but has admitted to wearing blackface during a 1984 talent show dressed as Michael Jackson.

Some people were not impressed with Northam’s announcement Tuesday.

For instance, the communications director for the blog Daily Kos criticized the pace of the effort under Northan, noting that former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored an average of 42,500 Virginian’s voting rights in each year of his governorship.

“Gov. McAuliffe restored the voting rights of over 170,000 Virginians previously convicted of felonies–which comes out to 42,500 for each year of his governorship–so maybe you should have tried a little harder, hm? Also please resign,” Carolyn Fiddler tweeted.

During his tenure as governor, McAuliffe signed an executive order to restore voting rights to anyone who completed their prison sentence and was no longer under state supervision. After the Virginia Supreme Court deemed the en-masse order unconstitutional, McAuliffe sped up the case-by-case review process to restore voting rights on an individual review basis.

By the end of his term as Virginia’s governor, McAuliffe’s administration had restored 173,166 freed felons’ rights to vote, which Northam noted in his statement. Northam, who was McAuliffe’s lieutenant governor, continued the initiative to restore voting rights when he became governor in 2018.

A political columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch said Northam released the numbers in an effort to gain a second chance for himself.

“JUST IN: Looking for one himself, @GovernorVA declares ‘I believe in second chances’ & announces he’s restored voting, civil rights of nearly 11K felons who’ve completed their penalties,” Jeff E. Schapiro tweeted. “They should be able to ‘return to society, get good job, participate in democracy,’ he says.”

This article was originally posted here.
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