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

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

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.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

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