Ex-felon gets registered to vote thanks to deadline extension

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - With Virginia extending the deadline for voter registration until the end of the day Friday, it's giving thousands more people the opportunity to cast their ballots.

Many of those are ex-felons who are just getting their voting rights restored this year for the first time.

Melvin Davis, 36, is an ex-felon who applied through the state this year to have his rights restored.

After waiting for months, he had given up on his chance of voting on November 8th, until he got a call at 4:30 Monday afternoon.

That call, on the last day to legally register to vote in Virginia, was the one he had been waiting for.

"I knew what it was, and I was kind of nervous, like are they going to give me a yes or are they going to give me a no?" said Davis.

The answer was yes.

After 15 years, Davis had his rights back, but in order to vote, he knew he had to act fast.

"I was actually towing a car, and I pulled over on the highway and started trying to register online," said Davis.

The site crashed, so he tried again when he got home.

"I was on my phone, my lady's phone, her laptop, the house computer. We were on every kind of internet system," said Davis.

As the time ticked closer to midnight, Davis began to lose hope.

"At that point, I just said it's not going to happen, but I still have my rights back, it's still a good thing," said Davis.

The next day, however, Davis got a call from an advocate he had been working with, telling him the good news.

"I didn't think I would be able to vote in this election unless they extended it, but they did so I'm fine," said Davis.

Roanoke Registrar Andrew Cochran says they've been seeing cases just like Davis' all week, as ex-felons receive their rights again.

He says the online registration system has never crashed before.

"I think it's a very fair thing that happened because the website went down, because so many people waited to the last minute and it just really overtaxed it and so this is a second reprieve for people to go out who didn't get the opportunity to complete their registrations and do that," said Cochran.

WSLS asked Davis why he went through so much effort just to make sure he could cast a ballot this year.

"It's bigger than just voting. It's being able to feel normal in society," said Davis.

Now, Davis says he's starting to feel that normalcy, something he's never had before in his adult life.

"It's like a new beginning," said Davis.

For all of those who still do need to register, Cochran says you can do so in person at the Registrar's Office until 5pm Friday, and online until 11:59pm Friday night.