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Move in Va. to restore voting rights for ex-convicts

Thursday - 12/27/2012, 12:03pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Someone commits a crime and does their time. But when convicted felons in Virginia get out of prison, they lose their right to vote forever.

That is, unless they petition the governor to get that right back. And it's a slow cumbersome process.

Sen. Chap Peterson (D - Fairfax County) has introduced a constitutional amendment to be considered during the 2013 General Assembly session that would give felons their right to vote back once they have completed their sentence.

"We want these people, once they're out, back out on the street, to integrate back into society," Peterson says.

"In my opinion, being able to vote and being able to participate in democracy is part of that process," he says.

There are about 50,000 ex-convicts in Virginia.

In order for the provision to become part of the state constitution, the General Assembly would have to approve it in two successive years. Then it would go on the ballot for voter approval.

Virginia is one of the few states in the country that does not automatically allow convicted felons to get their vote back at some point once they are out of prison.

Virginia's General Assembly convenes for the 2013 session on Jan. 9.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)