Arbitrary Rights Restoration
First Amendment Challenge
In April of 2023, Fair Elections Center along with Terry Frank Law and Attorney Charles Schmidt, filed a lawsuit against Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay Coles James, challenging Youngkin’s resurrection of an unconstitutionally arbitrary system for restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nolef Turns, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals with felony convictions live self-sufficient lives and reintegrate into the workforce and society after completing the requirements of their sentence, and Gregory Williams, a lifelong Virginia resident who is disenfranchised due to a past felony conviction.
Virginia’s last three governors have utilized specific, objective, and neutral criteria, such as sentence completion, for restoring voting rights to Virginians with previous felony convictions. Gov. Youngkin has now ended this policy, exercising his unlimited discretion under the Virginia Constitution to grant or deny each individual’s application for regaining their right to vote. Without laws, rules, or specific criteria guiding these decisions, Gov. Youngkin’s absolute power to decide which Virginians regain these rights opens the door to discrimination in the rights restoration process and violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.