The Bulletin

Virginia officials say more than 10,500 felons remained on voter rolls after re-offending

By: - December 9, 2022 12:05 pm

“I Voted” stickers spread out on a table at a polling place in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Another data glitch in Virginia’s election system caused 10,558 felons to remain on the voter rolls after they committed new crimes that should’ve made them ineligible to vote, state officials announced Friday.

The Virginia Department of Elections said it discovered the issue while conducting list maintenance as the agency prepares to replace the state’s aging voter system.

The affected voter registrations involve people with felony convictions who had their rights restored by governors as Virginia dramatically relaxed its lifetime disenfranchisement policy over the last decade. As hundreds of thousands of felons regained their right to vote, the state’s voter system wasn’t set up to account for the possibility that some of those newly registered voters might re-offend and become ineligible again.

“The original computer code written for the restoration of rights process did not provide for the instance in which an individual might be reconvicted of a felony following the restoration of their rights,” the agency release said. “ELECT has automated a solution to cancel these voters and add them back to the prohibited list.”

Only a small portion of the impacted voters — roughly 1,000 — have cast a ballot in a Virginia election since 2011, according to officials. That indicates the impact on election outcomes was likely minimal, because the vast majority of people who had their rights restored did not re-offend.

Governors from both parties have prioritized rights restoration over the last decade, meaning a felony conviction no longer prohibits democratic participation for life the way it once did. However, the lifetime felon disenfranchisement policy remains in the Virginia Constitution, despite the repeal efforts of advocates who argue fundamental rights shouldn’t come down to the whims of whatever governor happens to be in office. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe made rights restoration a major focus of his administration, restoring the rights of more than 173,000 people during his time in office.

The felon issue comes after the elections department experienced significant problems earlier this year processing voter registration data coming over from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Just before the midterm elections, local election officials had to process more than 250,000 transactions that hadn’t properly been transferred. Officials said that issue was also caused by faulty computer code.

The new voter system, which officials have said is expected to address many technological defects in the current one, is set to be developed and implemented over the next two years.


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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.