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Governor Asked to Restore Civil Rights to Felons


Monday, December 14, 2009   

PETERSBURG, Va. - Church leaders and civil rights groups rallied on Saturday in Petersburg, asking Gov. Tim Kaine to restore the rights of felons before he leaves office in January.

Pamela Nicholas became a felon after incurring three misdemeanors for shoplifting. Nicholas acknowledges that some would say she gave up her rights when she committed the crimes, but she notes that they occurred more than ten years ago and says she has atoned.

"You can't be punished always in life, and I tell them that, well, God has forgiven me and washed my sins of all of it. You know, I don't really worry what a lot of people say. I just gotta keep believing in me and goin' forward."

Nicholas says a restoration of her rights would mean she wouldn't have to note that she's a felon on job applications, she would be allowed to serve on a jury, and she could vote. She tried an individual appeal to the governor last year because she desperately wanted to vote for America's first Black president, she says.

"Always in my heart I really wanted to vote, and I was very hurt and disappointed when I couldn't vote in the Obama race. I was all motivated, I was energetic and ready to go, and I got everything done. Then within a month they sent back a denial letter."

Nicholas says no reason was given for the denial. Gov. Kaine is a former civil rights lawyer; while in office, he has restored the rights of more than 4,000 felons - more than any other previous Virginia governor.

The Virginia Organizing Project organized the Saturday rally. Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that permanently strip felons of civil rights such as voting, serving on juries or holding public office. An estimated 300,000 Virginians like Nicholas would benefit from an executive order restoring their rights.

More information is available by calling the Virginia Organizing Project, 202-470-5878.

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