CONTACT:  Zerline Hughes, Justice Policy Institute
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Virginia Faith Leaders to Rally at State Capitol, Call on Gov. McDonnell to Deliver on Commitment to Automatic Voting Rights Restoration

Hundreds of Religious Leaders and Advocates Commend Governor on Historic Action on Voting Rights Restoration, and Encourage Him to Apply Changes Broadly to Reach as Many Disenfranchised Citizens as Possible

WHO:            Virginia faith-based leaders, local and national advocacy organizations

WHAT:          Press conference at State Capitol, followed by community rally at Virginia Union University

WHEN:          Press Conference Friday, May 31, 2013 from noon to 1pm; Rally 2:30 to 4:30pm

WHERE:        Press Conference Virginia State Capitol Belltower in Richmond, VA; and Rally at Virginia Union University, 1500 N. Lombardy Street, VA


RICHMOND, VA – More than 500 religious leaders, laypersons, social justice and civil rights advocates will descend on the Virginia State Capitol Friday at noon to thank Gov. Bob McDonnell for this week’s historic decision to automatically restore voting rights to people with nonviolent felony convictions. Participants will also push the governor to deliver on his commitment by, in the spirit of forgiveness and redemption, making automatic rights restoration apply to as many of the 350,000 Virginians who are currently disenfranchised as possible. This means that the Commonwealth’s list of crimes categorized as “violent” must be narrow and specific – significantly reduced so that more people are included under the rights restoration changes.

The Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration – a faith-based coalition made of up leaders from the Virginia Baptist State Convention, Baptist General Convention of Virginia and Faith Leaders Moving Forward – are also calling on their members to get involved.

Representing more than 1,600 churches and 750,000 members throughout Virginia, the coalition will ask their congregations to raise awareness about the policy change on rights restoration, and to encourage disenfranchised people in their communities to come forward to begin the process of regaining their rights. The faith-based groups will also be joined on Friday by local and national advocacy organizations including Virginia Cure, Advancement Project and the Justice Policy Institute.

“We applaud Gov. McDonnell for allowing forgiveness and redemption to take place by creating a process for automatically restoring the rights of people with nonviolent felony convictions,” said Rev. Dr. Mark A. Crosten, President of the Virginia Baptist State Convention. “We want to ensure that this process is fully automatic by having it applied broadly. If we are to restore voting rights in a way that is meaningful, then it’s got to impact a significant number of the 350,000 Virginians who are currently stripped of their rights.”

The coalition will begin Friday at noon with a press conference at the State Capitol Bell Tower. The press conference will be followed by a community rally at Virginia Union University from 2:30-4:30.

“In line with our teachings to spread the Gospel, we believe that all are capable of being redeemed,” said Rev. Darrel K. White, President of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia. “People who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance to exercise their civil rights, and we encourage the Governor to extend the Christian tenet of forgiveness to as many impacted people as possible.”

During the rally, the coalition will also share ways in which Virginia residents can help educate their communities about automatic rights restoration, and unveil tools for helping disenfranchised citizens make themselves known so they can have their rights restored.

For more information on the Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration, go to