“I feel like without rights restoration, you aren’t totally free from sentencing. When I received my rights restoration paperwork, I felt like I can finally put my past behind me, and work on ensuring the rest of my life is the best I can make it.”
Richmond, Virginia
Rights Restored September 2, 2016
“[Having my rights restored] has given me a sense of hope when I thought there was no hope for my situation, having been told ‘no’ by three previous administrations. [It felt] like it would take a miracle for my rights to be restored and be able to vote again. Now I feel whole again. It means a great deal to me, for the Governor and his administration to do what they did for me and thousands of others. It means they believe in us and the truth that when you pay your debt to society you shouldn’t be punished twice. I will never take this right for granted ever again. They say you never miss something until you lose it.”
North Chesterfield, Virginia
Rights Restored June 23, 2015
“[Having my rights restored] has given me confidence to continue to achieve my goals and remember that nothing is impossible. It is one step closer to me getting my record cleared and being embraced as the true community member and leader that I am.”
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Rights Restored August 15, 2016
“My rights being restored has allowed me to use my example in the talks that I have repeated throughout Virginia to other returning citizens about the importance of exercising their right to stand up for themselves, their families, and their communities. Having my rights restored means that I can now fulfill my personal obligation to make my voice count as a citizen and a man. This means to me that I can confidently walk into a public office with knowledge and understanding and execute my rights a member of society instead of standing in the shadows of second class citizenship.

This restoration is only one of many obstacles that is so necessary to overcome for me as a returning citizen. I understand that my overcoming challenges, like getting my rights restored, are just as important for the next returning citizen as it is for me personally. This example that we, with the help of the Governor, have set will influence and encourage so many behind us to stand up as citizens and be accountable.”
Herndon, Virginia
Rights Restored November 23, 2016
“Having my rights restored has impacted my life greatly because it has allowed me the ability to be a voice heard in our communities. It has given me the opportunity to vote and be a positive asset to my community. This opportunity has given me the strength to no longer look at myself as a second-class person, but an upstanding citizen, leader, and community advocate. I have taken the initiative to further my education and it has allowed me the ability to be proactive and make connections with individuals looking to better their communities and assist me in bettering my life skills and abilities. It allowed me to accept responsibility for my past and move forward in leaving my past in the past while looking to a brighter future.”
Arlington, Virginia
Rights Restored January 13, 2016
“I was able to vote for the first time in almost 30 years. Having my rights restored was the final piece to feeling like I completed my sentence. I feel like I can finally live as a whole citizen and have say so in issues that affect my life and my family's and neighbors' lives.”
Henrico, Virginia
Rights Restored October 14, 2016
“To have my rights restored was a beginning for me. I could walk with my head up instead of down. I could go into the voting polls and get my own sticker. I can feel like an American citizen again. I was able to go to the college of my dreams and receive my B.S. in Health Service Management. I no longer apply for the lower grade jobs. I go for the manager’s positions.
Norfolk, Virginia
Rights Restored August 26, 2015
“Having my rights restored has allowed me to prepare to take on employment and advancement in my work. To have my rights restored means that I have a sense of pride for myself and my actions. I do not feel as though I am being judged on my past. It was important for me to have my rights back so that I would be able to vote and make a difference in my life, my family and my community.”
Jeffrey G.
Richmond, Virginia
Rights Restored December 1, 2016
“I was overjoyed when I received the letter that my rights had been restored. I felt like a U. S. citizen again. I felt like I am somebody – not just a number, without a voice – but someone, a person, a human being , a citizen with a voice who is going to use it every chance I get.

“It means that society has given me another chance and I can start over again in society and exercise my civic duty. A lot of times, people do not get a second chance. I want to make it right, as I am glad I received a second chance. Restoration of my rights means that my life is now ‘whole.’ Not only have I started over again spiritually, occupationally, and in other aspects of my life, now I have started over again in fulfilling my civic duties and responsibilities. I thank the Governor for allowing me to have a second chance.”
Robert W.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Rights Restored August 15, 2016
“Having my rights restored makes me feel like and a citizen who is contributing to society. Also having my rights restored makes me feel like I am no longer being penalized for my mistakes by being deprived of rights and privileges that other citizens enjoy. Voting is a primary duty of citizenship and defines who you are. Because I could not vote, I did not feel that I was fulfilling my duty not just as a citizen but as a person. Now I feel like a person – a grown person and a citizen. This makes me feel good and makes me feel valued since now that I can vote, my views carry more weight and I won’t be as easily be dismissed. I am hoping I can be a positive example to others.”
Jeffrey D.
New Church, Virginia
Rights Restored August 15, 2016
“I have framed the certificate that was presented to me and sits on my wall at home next to 20 years of military service awards. Just seeing that on my wall has given me renewed confidence and affirmation that all the hard work in rehabilitating my life has paid off. Having my rights restored is immeasurable. I know what it means to be a citizen of this great nation. I know full well the privilege of having the right to vote…I remember the feeling I had leaving the polling place after voting in local elections, wearing the “I Voted” pin on my uniform. A lot of people in this nation take for granted the liberties they have as an American citizen. Walk a mile in any convicted felon's shoes who have paid their debt to society, the ones who have never committed another crime, individuals who have fought to hard to obtain a good job, buy a home, repaired their credit and developed strong ties to their community only to realize that you can't vote, hold office or even sit on a jury.

You can't imagine how worthless and hollow it feels to know that you have an opinion, a stake in this country, and you don't have a say in any of it. The right to vote is your right to have a say in this country. I feel like I have a place among the citizens of the United States again. I served my country with honor for 20 years, committing my crime after I retired. I missed being an American citizen. Governor McAuliffe has given me the chance to be a complete citizen again, something I hold dear.”
Oakland, Tennessee
Rights Restored December 6, 2016
“I feel complete now. I feel like I belong in society once again. I am a tax-paying citizen who cares where this country is going. I was able to vote for the first time since 1995. I also became a Virginia Notary, which I currently use at my job. And I also have now received my driver’s license and feel complete. I felt like I was judged and singled out as a bad person who society would always look down upon. Now I get to vote and let my voice be heard. Thanks for believing in us.”
Richmond, Virginia
Rights Restored August 22, 2016
“[Having my rights restored] has provided me a new beginning and made me feel like a productive citizen. Prior to getting my rights restored, I did not have a voice. It has always been important to me to have a voice. When I did not have a voice, I was not in control of my fate. Now I have a voice I can speak for myself and be in control of my destiny. Because my rights have been restored, I look at myself in a more positive light and believe that others do as well. Restoration of my rights has given me a fresh start with my career as well as allowed me to expand my career options.

“I appreciate the Governor focusing attention on restoring rights to me and other persons with felony convictions. I especially appreciate the Governor’s perseverance and not giving up after the Supreme Court struck down his April 22nd Executive Order.”
Robert D.
Parksley, Virginia
Rights Restored September 2, 2016
“Once you’re convicted of something, it’s a stigma that you’re convicted the rest of your life. By giving felons their rights back so they can vote, hold public office, or get jury duty, it gives them a starting point.
Scottsville, Virginia
Rights Restored October 10, 2014
[A conviction] gave you a stigma. You weren’t going to be part of the affluent crew because you had a felony. You were the guy who can’t participate, who has limitations. It gives you limits. It limits your ability to have a voice. It limits who you are in your community.”
Rights Restored August 22, 2016
“People get into [elected] positions and they talk about what they want to do, what they’re going to do for the people. But when you see stuff like this, it really makes a difference. The Governor actually put his foot to the pedal.
Richmond, Virginia
Rights Restored August 22, 2016
“On top of having felonies, I couldn’t vote. It was like I was not a citizen. I paid my fines and my restitutions, but my court fees were over $18,000.”
Portsmouth, Virginia
Rights Restored October 8, 2015

Are your rights restored?

Anyone convicted of a felony in Virginia automatically loses their civil rights - the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for office, become a notary public and carry a firearm. The Constitution of Virginia gives the Governor the sole discretion to restore civil rights, not including firearm rights. Individuals seeking restoration of their civil rights are encouraged to contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.