PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Governor McAuliffe made the announcement in April that he would restore civil rights, including the right to vote, to 206,000 convicted felons. They are now in the process of getting their right to vote restored.
How many times have we said on election days, “Remember to go out and vote.” Portsmouth resident Paul Woodell hasn’t bought into that because he can’t vote, he’s a convicted felon.
The right to vote in free and fair elections is who we are as Americans, but don’t tell that to 59-year-old Paul Woodell. After 30 years of not being able to vote Woodell isn’t buying it.
“Time is served, 30 years is my life. I’ve given up 30 years of jobs, 30 years of chances and opportunities that I’ve missed out on,” Woodell said.
According to Woodell, this is how he got his felony 30 years ago in South Carolina:
“I was tripping on acid (LSD) and drunk and I ended up passing out. My buddies thought it a joke, and put me under bouncy balls that kids play on, it’s called a ball pit. I passed out, and they closed down the place. I woke up and didn’t know where I was, and I was locked in. I grabbed a chair, broke the window and the police were outside, they arrested me for breaking out.” Woodell says he was arrested for breaking and entering which is a felony. He served no time, and returned to Virginia on probation.
Woodell went to the Portsmouth Voter Registrar and wanted 10 On Your Side to go along. Last week the system said his information was unavailable; Monday he thought it would be different, he thought wrong.
Deputy Registrar Alexandra Reid checked for an update and came out with bad news.
“Right now there’s no record in the data base that your rights have been restored. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been restored, but they aren’t showing up. With rights restored to 206,000 felons it takes time to upload the information,” Reid said.
In a very slow and quiet delivery Paul said, “That means I’m coming down next week, and the week after, and the next week, and the next week.”
Woodell came down to the office last week. It was also pointed out to him that he can also check online, but it would appear he likes getting the information face-to-face.
Woodell was convicted in South Carolina. That issue hasn’t come up in the office before, and the staff seemed unsure when it was presented to them.
“It would appear he has to abide by their (South Carolina’s) restoration, but give us one second,” said one of the registrar workers.
We waited for the answer. Is that why he’s not in the system, he doesn’t qualify because he’s convicted in South Carolina? That would be terrible news for Paul. The staff found the answer under the frequently asked questions, and Deputy Registrar Krystal Whitson gave him the news.
“Question, what if I was convicted in another state and reside in Virginia?” Krystal continued, “Your rights have been restored.”
Paul was absolutely filled with joy and he screamed, “Whooo,” he said with a sustained laugh.
Then Paul went to the window, alone, and he was emotional, crying to the point you could see his head moving. “I’m ecstatic.” “Why are you crying?” we asked, “It’s just a big burden that’s been lifted,” he said.
The voter registrar’s office promises to make sure Paul Woodell’s paperwork is properly processed.
Many republicans have questioned Governor McAuliffe’s decision to restore the rights thinking that benefits the democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
So who is Paul Woodell voting for?
He’s voting Donald Trump.
But Woodell thanked Governor McAuliffe for giving him his right to do so back. It was a democratic governor who put Paul in this position. We then asked what he would like to say to Governor McAuliffe.
“I want to thank him, thank you that’s all I can say, I’m voting for Donald Trump though,” Woodell said.