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Judge Denies Virginia NAACP’s Effort to Get Voting Rights Restoration Database

A judge has sided with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration that a database used for Virginia’s rights restoration process is exempt from the state’s public records law.

The Virginia NAACP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records on how the state restores the voting rights of people with felony convictions who have served their sentences, a process in which Youngkin (R) has the sole authority.

In Virginia, people lose their right to vote, run for office and other civil rights when convicted of a felony and must petition the governor to regain them. People need to ask the courts to restore their firearms rights.

Youngkin’s office provided documents to the Virginia NAACP, but the chapter sued the governor for records it claimed his administration illegally withheld as part of the request, specifically for a database that tracks the applicants seeking to have their rights restored.

The dispute was heard Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court, where the legal team for the Virginia NAACP argued that how the governor’s administration uses the database and who had access to it was unclear.

Lawyers from the state attorney general’s office argued that the database “lies at the heart of” the deliberative process and should be exempted from the state’s FOIA law as working papers of the governor.

Richard Cullen, counselor to Youngkin, took the witness stand Tuesday, telling the court that about eight people within the administration can access the database but that it’s not widely available for use. He also called the database “central” to Youngkin’s decision-making process.

Judge William R Marchant agreed, ruling that the database is “clearly a working paper of the governor” and should be exempt from FOIA. Marchant also noted that applicants hoping to get their rights restored trusted that their personal information would stay confidential and not public.

Another lawsuit over Youngkin’s rights restoration process — one in federal court — is still moving forward.

Source: WRIC