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ACLU of Virginia Demands Northam Support Voting Rights Amendment

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on Tuesday that since he's taken office, he has helped restore the voting rights of almost 11,000 former felons in the state of Virginia. 


"Virginians who have repaid their debts should be able to return to society, get a good job, and participate in our democracy," he said in a statement.

But, the state's ACLU chapter wants to see the governor go a step further.

ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga urged Northam in a recent letter to achieve “racial justice at the ballot box.” The only way to get there, she said, is a constitutional amendment.

The current law is a "relic from Jim Crow," she said.

“If you are indeed serious about ending historically rooted racial injustices, you will immediately announce your public support and commitment to lead the charge to amend the Virginia constitution to positively affirm and guarantee the right to vote of every citizen over the age of 18,” Gastañaga wrote.


The "disenfranchisement of voting rights of people convicted of felony offenses is a Jim Crow-era limit specifically intended to block black people from voting," the ACLU says on its website, adding that about one in five African-Americans in Virginia currently are prohibited from voting because of it.

Northam has already been mired in controversy over a racist photo that was discovered on his page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. He denies being in the picture, but has failed to answer questions about what it was doing there in the first place. His attempts at an apology have left much to be desired. Then, to get ahead of his own bad press, attorney general Mark Herring admitted to doing blackface in college.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is facing calls to resign after two women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

Other (scandal-free) Virginia lawmakers have called on all three men to resign. 

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