According to MSNBC, the current state law imposes significant burdens on felon, whose goal after they are released from prison is to regain their basic civil rights, including the right to vote. Under the current law, felons must apply directly to the governor and met certain qualifications Under McDonnell's tenure, 4,423 felons have regained their civil rights, which according to the McDonnell administration is the highest of any Virginia governor to date.
In his state of the Commonwealth speech, he told the legislature:
As a nation that believes in redemption and second chances, we must provide a clear path for willing individuals to be productive members of society once they have served their sentences and paid their fines and restitution. It is time for Virginia to join most of the other states and make the restoration of civil rights an automatic process for non-violent offenders.
According to MSNBC, two Republican backed legislative bills have been filled to provide an alternative path for felons. One bill would be for nonviolent felons only, and the second bill would grant all felons restoration of civil rights upon the completion of a full sentence and payment of fines. State Democrats have praised McDonnell for his action on restoring civil rights to felons. The Brennan Center for Justice is also pleased with the move, saying in a press release:
We commend Governor Bob McDonnell for his support of automatically restoring the right to vote of individuals with past criminal convictions. This would move Virginia to the mainstream, allowing Americans who have served their time to have a voice in their community will reap great benefits in terms of public safety and a more robust democracy. Governor McDonnell's support for restoring rights complements his use of his clemency power to reintegrate these individuals back into our democracy.