Mr. McDonnell may be compounding the damage by insisting that nonviolent former felons — people convicted of shoplifting and other property crimes, for instance — must do more than just apply to the state if they wish to vote, a process that until now has been time‐consuming but generally successful for those who stick with it. Mr. McDonnell would have them submit a letter making the case that they have contributed to society since their release — an utterly arbitrary standard. What’s more, they are asked to explain why they think they should get their rights back. As we see it, the correct answer is: Because they are rights. Period.