Push to Register Felons to Vote Could Aid Obama

October 5, 2008

Nationally, there are roughly 4 million released felons whose convictions have cost them the right to vote at least temporarily, if not permanently.

To return to the ballot box, felons must negotiate suffrage laws that vary from state to state. The nonprofit groups and individual activists making the push on felons' behalf agree the effort is broader this year than in previous elections.

They expect that effort to benefit Barack Obama more than John McCain, given that the population of former felons is disproportionately black.

Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that permanently bar felons from voting, although the governors of those states can restore voting rights to individuals.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has added staff to process applications before Monday's registration deadline. Applications in Virginia jumped from 76 for all of July 2007 to 138 in a single week this summer.

Officials say Kaine had restored the rights of 2,633 felons as of Monday.

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