PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth woman, convicted of a felony 26 years ago, slipped through the cracks and was allowed to vote. Now, she’s won the attention of the city’s top prosecutor.
If you’re a convicted felon, you lose your right to vote. So how did this happen? To find out, 10 On Your Side first talked to Lisa White, who said at the time she honestly thought she could vote.
White is not allowed to vote because in 1988 she was convicted of two counts of forgery — cashing checks that weren’t hers. “Yes I do [regret it] … I did it because I love my kids. I had no money. I couldn’t feed them,” she told WAVY.com.
White served 10 months for those offenses, got her life together, got her GED, claims to have had military clearance, worked as a nurse, and raised three children. 20 years later she got a voter registration form in the mail: “I got a registration card to vote, and I was like ‘hey, I can vote now.’”
“I think they are being picky,” White said about the Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle Mobley, which is prosecuting her for a vote she made in 2008 for President Obama.
But prosecutors say on the voter registration card is this question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” And White checked “no.” WAVY.com confronted her about that, asking for her rational.
“Because [my crimes] were in 1987 … that’s a long time ago,” she said. “I got a registration sent to me in my home, and I thought it was ok.”
Ironically, the vote was the only White ever cast.
“When I showed up to vote … they had my name … checked my name off … never mentioned anything about being a felon … I showed them my I.D. Then I voted,” she said.
The Portsmouth Voter Registrar wouldn’t answer any questions about White’s case, except to mention that the registration application is a self-administered oath of honesty.
Almost five years after that 2008 vote, an investigator showed up and charged White with election fraud. “He told me the Commonwealth was investigating a lot of people who voted in 2008 for Obama,” White said.
White says she didn’t vote in 2012 because she was in the hospital with cancer. She is now on dialysis needing a kidney transplant and cannot believe she now faces a class-five felony with up to 10 years in prison. White thinks a warning would be enough, and is putting her fate in the hands of a jury on Monday.
And White isn’t the only one. The Virginia State Police investigation netted 17 felons in Portsmouth who voted in the 2008 election. Prosecutors have narrowed that down to six felons to be prosecuted, including White.
A felon is only able to vote again after his or her voting rights are restored by the Governor. White has only preliminarily begun that process.