One of the highly discussed issues in Virginia’s gubernatorial election is the restoration of rights to convicted felons.
Republican Ed Gillespie's campaign has criticized Democrat Ralph Northam's policies in the current administration in restoring rights.
Coming up on Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballot. One of the candidates vying to represent Smyth, Wythe, and Carroll counties in District 6 of the Virginia House of Delegates is Independent Kenneth Browning.
Browning was convicted in November 2008 of using a computer to facilitate child sex offenses. He is listed on the Virginia State Police sex offender database.
Browning can run for public office because his rights were restored by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in December. The voter registrar's office reflects he amassed the required number of signatures for a qualifying petition and that is all that is required.
A Commonwealth's Attorney in Southwest Virginia points out this policy was enacted by the governor in May 2016.
"Under this new process that the current governor has put in place, it's almost immediately that they can get their rights restored once they complete their probation," Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Patton said.
Browning wouldn’t go on camera with News 5 but claims he was falsely accused of the crime he was convicted of and said he won’t comment until after the election.
Residents News 5 spoke with offered their opinions on the matter.
One said she wouldn’t vote for him. Another said, “A lot of people around here say it's a child sex crime - they look at that real strong and heavy."
Browning is running against Republican incumbent Jeff Campbell.
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