Under Fire

McDonnell Angers Black Leaders Again

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has outraged black leaders for the second time this week with his plans to make it tougher for nonviolent felons to vote. Coming on the heels of his announcement of a Confederate History Month, McDonnell, a Republican, will require felons to write an essay detailing how they’ve helped society since getting out of prison—which means that instead of automatically getting voting rights back, they will be granted on a subject basis that disadvantages the poor, the less-educated, and minorities. "This is designed to suppress the rights of poor people," Virginia State Sen. Yvonne B. Miller. McDonnell’s announcement Tuesday that he would make April Confederate History Month contained no references to slavery, and he was criticized by black leaders, President Obama, and former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who was the state's first black governor. McDonnell eventually apologized and changed the proclamation. But now some of the same critics are questioning his new voting-rights requirements. The governor says it’s merely designed to help bureaucrats put a human face on applicants. "It's an opportunity, not an obstacle," said the head of the office handling the applications.