Our View: It ain’t broke
Posted: January 16, 2013
Trite as this may be as a way of starting an editorial, we nonetheless trot out an adage, admittedly overused — “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This definitely applies to Virginia’s system — executive and bureaucratic though it may be, as opposed to automatic — of restoring civil rights to nonviolent felons. Given Gov. McDonnell’s rather extensive use of this recently streamlined case-by-case approach — his restoration of rights to more than 4,400 such felons is a record here in Virginia — it definitely seems to be working just fine.
Still, the governor desires more progress on this front. In his State of the Commonwealth speech last week, he called for said process to be made automatic. And he did so in the spirit of “redemption and second chances.”
A House subcommittee made short shrift of a proposed constitutional amendment to that effect on Monday. Then, on Tuesday, a more limited measure — restoration of voting rights only — barely made it to full-committee consideration by virtue of a 3-3 tie in a Senate subcommittee.
Granted, these days only Virginia and Kentucky permanently strip felons of their civil rights to, for example, vote and hold public office. The former places restoration power solely in the hands of the governor.
In our opinion, the system works because of adherence to a case-by-case process. If a felon gets his life in order, his rights can be restored. And when “nonviolent” offenses include child abuse, drugs sales to kids, and abuse of the mentally ill, we believe such a review remains the way to go.