Va. sex offenders drawn into fight over rights restoration

WASHINGTON — More than 100 convicted sex offenders have been drawn into the dispute over Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order that restored the voting rights of thousands of ex-felons.

The names of the 132 sex offenders, who have completed their prison sentences but remain under civil confinement because they were deemed a danger to the community appeared, on the list of 206,000 offenders whose voting rights were restored in April. But state officials have abruptly removed their names from the list.

“These are individuals, and they are not alone, there are some others, who were listed erroneously. But they never met the criteria so their rights were never restored,” said governor’s spokesman Brian Coy.

The sex offenders are confined at a state treatment facility in Nottoway County, southwest of Richmond. The county’s prosecutor charges that the governor’s executive order was rushed through and threatens public safety, because, she believes the sex offenders, having completed their sentences, would be eligible for voting rights under the governor’s order.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Royall points out that the violent sex offenders confined at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation would be eligible for jury duty and to seek public office if their civil rights were restored.

“I would expect, very quickly, for some savvy attorney or some savvy resident of the VCBR to file a lawsuit about this very issue because in my reading of the order they do meet the criteria and most attorneys I talk to agree with that,” said Nottoway County Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Royall.

On Friday, 43 commonwealth’s attorneys filed a friend of the court brief against the governor’s order. They argued that the restoration of voting rights should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, not through a blanket restoration.

The governor’s office says the list of ex-felons who become eligible for voting rights is open to revision and names can be added or dropped from the list.

“We’re going to have some administrative challenges and as we’re being made aware of them, we’re solving them,” Coy said.

The governor’s office admitted earlier this month that the list contained some names in error.

Some prosecutors say the list of eligible voters even includes some felons who are still incarcerated.

“It was done very, very hurriedly without proper attention to detail, without thinking through the possible ramifications of people who would end up falling in these cracks as we’ve seen,” Royall said.

McAuliffe restored voting and other civil rights to ex-felons who had completed their terms of incarceration or supervised release, including probation and parole.

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