A first-time voter at 94

Published 12:38 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Convicted in 1946, she’s free to register

By Diana McFarland


Managing editor

SURRY — A 94-year-old Spring Grove resident will be able to vote in her first presidential election in November, after Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday restored her voting and civil rights.

McAuliffe’s order is estimated to restore rights to more than 200,000 Virginians who were convicted of felonies, but had served their time, and completed any supervised release, parole or probation requirements. The order went into effect for those who met those requirements as of April 22. 

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The elderly, but chipper, woman, who did want to reveal her identity publicly because the nature of her crime still caused pain, registered Monday in the Surry County registrar’s office.

The resident was convicted in 1946 at the age of 24 in a case of domestic violence. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

After she served her time, she has led an “exemplary life,” said retired Surry Judge Gammiel Poindexter, who has worked with felons for years to have their rights restored.

This will be the woman’s first time voting. Surry County Registrar Lucille Epps gave her two “I registered to vote today” stickers — one to wear that day and one to keep.

The Spring Grove woman said she plans to vote for Hillary Clinton.

“It means everything … this will be a joy,” she said.

The 94-year old woman was followed by Mervin Young and Tyrone Green Sr., who also came in Monday to register to vote. Green hasn’t voted in 16 years, and for Young it’s been 25 years. Green was convicted of felony DUI and Young went to prison for possessing drug paraphernalia, he said.

“It’s a good privilege to have,” said Green, who added that once it’s taken away, it’s hard to restore.

Young said that once someone has done their time, the past crime should not be held over their head the rest of their lives.

Removing someone’s right to vote after they have paid their debt to society is just an example of the injustice within the justice system, Poindexter said.

Epps said those three were the only ones to register to vote that first day it was available. Isle of Wight County Deputy Registrar Victoria Lonsdale said five people applied online and a few phone calls.

McAuliffe praised the work on his administration.

“Throughout my administration my team and I have operated on a simple principle: Virginians who have served their time and reentered society should do so as full citizens of our Commonwealth and country,” said Governor McAuliffe.

“Too often in both our distant and recent history, politicians have used their authority to restrict peoples’ ability to participate in our democracy. Today we are reversing that disturbing trend and restoring the rights of more than 200,000 of our fellow Virginians who work, raise families and pay taxes in every corner of our Commonwealth.”

McAuliffe also told the secretary of the commonwealth to prepare a similar order monthly in order to restore the rights of individuals who complete their sentences in the future.

Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia grants the governor the authority to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” of a felony.

Previous to Friday’s action, the McAuliffe Administration restored the rights of more than 18,000 Virginians, which is more than the past seven governors combined over their full four-year terms.

The Governor also worked to reform the restoration process by reducing the waiting period for more serious offenders from five years to three, classifying all drug-related convictions as non-violent, shortening the application for more serious offenders from 13 pages to one page, removing a requirement that individuals pay their court costs before they can have their rights restored, and ensuring that a notation will be included in an individual’s criminal record designating that his or her rights have been restored.

For more information about the governor’s order, frequently asked questions and the status of individual restoration of rights petitions, visit: www.Commonwealth.Virginia/RoR  {/mprestriction}