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Mark Whitaker. One More Felon Who Can Vote

Mark Whitaker. One More Felon Who Can Vote

Gotta love Gov. Ralph Northam. When he’s not prancing around in blackface or explaining how to get rid of deformed babies, he’s showing us just how progressive he really is.

For example, a decade ago, felons who wanted to vote had to write an essay to the governor and ask for the restoration of their civil rights.

They also had to “repay their debt to society” and demonstrate that they were living law-abiding lives before they were permitted to join the rest of us on Election Day.

No more.

Now Virginia felons open their mailboxes and find munificent gifts from the governor. Sort of like Publisher’s Clearinghouse, without the giant checks.

Even those felons who haven’t paid their fines, restitution or court costs and those still on probation sometimes find themselves invited to vote and serve on juries.

Virginia isn’t as progressive as Maine or Vermont, where inmates can vote from their cells, but we’re getting there.

Illustration by  Ari Evergreen .

Illustration by Ari Evergreen.

I’m sure former Portsmouth City Councilman Mark Whitaker was thrilled to learn that less than five months after he was convicted of three felonies for forgery he can once again vote.

Heck, he can run for his old council seat. He can serve on a jury and become a notary public. That would be rich, wouldn’t it: Asking a convicted forger to notarize your signature?

Whitaker, who was convicted in September and immediately set about trying to get his civil rights restored in time for the November election (he was still on the ballot but was ineligible to win), had to wait till February 4th for Northam to act, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Just three days after the governor’s blackface scandal broke.

A happy accident.

I checked online court records yesterday and saw that Whitaker was fined $2,500 for each of three felonies and assessed $3,367 in court costs.

The boxes for “fines/cost paid” on each conviction sheet are blank.

Portsmouth Circuit Court Clerk Cynthia P. Morrison confirmed what seemed obvious: Whitaker has not yet paid all of his fines and costs.

“Court costs and fines are due on the day of the conviction,” Ms. Morrison explained. “But if an individual doesn’t have the money they can arrange a payment plan.

“That’s what Mr. Whitaker has done and he’s current on his monthly payments.”

Look, restoration of civil rights - after a period of good behavior and once all fees and fines are paid - is reasonable. But it’s extremely tiresome to hear the argument that felons should be allowed to vote because “they’ve paid their debt to society.”

Many haven’t. Northam doesn’t care.

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