Rights restored, felon casts vote for the first time

William Lafferty spent nearly 18 years in prison on robbery, abduction and gun charges. He voted for the first time in his life on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. WAVY/Lex Gray

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — William Lafferty got to vote for the first time in his life Tuesday.

He is one of about 85,000 felons who have had their rights restored since Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014.

Lafferty, 39, met the governor last month at a summit dedicated to helping former prisoners rehabilitate to life as civilians.

The same day voter registration closed, McAuliffe’s office restored Lafferty’s right to vote.

He nearly missed his opportunity when Virginia’s elections website crashed repeatedly in the hours leading up to the deadline, but a federal judge’s ruling allowed for an extension, and Lafferty successfully registered.

“I worked hard to get to where I am now and I worked hard to be able to have a voice in our community,” said Lafferty, who went to school and began working as a mechanic upon his release four years ago.

He spent nearly 18 years in prison for robbery, abduction and gun charges — crimes he says he will spend his life trying to rectify.

“You can change and be a better person for yourself and those around you,” said Lafferty.

At Salem Elementary School Tuesday morning, Lafferty cast his ballot.

He chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, but said he felt more strongly about voting in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give a property tax exemption to the spouses of police officers, firefighters and other first responders who die in the line of duty.

“Those are the people who are the foundation of what we stand for,” Lafferty said. “When we say we’re a nation that protects and provides for ourselves and our family, that was probably the strongest issue for me.”