Virginia Felon files lawsuit
to regain voting rights

A felon and former Richmond, Va., councilman who wants his voting rights restored, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell, the secretary of the commonwealth and one other election official.

Sa’ad El-Amin, 72, a political activist, lost his voting rights after a 2003 tax evasion conviction. He was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release, which he completed in August 2009.

Virginia is one of four states in which the governor must approve felons’ applications to restore voting rights. Virginia felons must wait two or five years – depending on the crime – after serving their sentences and complete restitution and other legal costs before they can apply to McDonnell, who decides. There is no appeals process and applicants who are denied must wait a year before reapplying.

The lawsuit argues that the review process is not transparent and violates due process. El-Amin also argues the law is unconstitutional because he claims it was created to suppress black votes.

A spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

By Maryann Batlle, News21