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Wrongfully convicted man gets chance to vote


Bennett Barbour plans to cast his vote for the first time after being wrongfully convicted for a rape in the 70s. Barbour was recently cleared of the crime, thanks to DNA evidence.

Barbour is gravely ill with bone cancer. This election might be his first and only chance to vote. Thanks to some quick action from The Innocence Project and Governor Bob McDonnell's office, that dream should come true.

"This my card to vote!" said Barbour, grinning through the pain at his voter registration card. From his hospital bed, Barbour knows each day is a gift. He's dying from bone cancer.

"I'm on my last legs," said Barbour. "I don't know if I'll make it the day after tomorrow."

It's why he holds so tightly to his registration card and a letter from the Governor, restoring his right to vote. They grant him the right to have a say in who leads the country. That's a voice he never thought he would have.

"I cried," said Barbour. "It's amazing, it's something I always wanted to do."

Even though Barbour was cleared of the rape charges, he did still have some court fees from the DMV and Henrico County for a minor burglary charge. That's where the Governor and the Innocence Project stepped in, giving him his chance.

This is a statement from Governor Bob McDonnell:

"I want to congratulate and thank the Virginians, and others from out of state, who have come together to raise the money necessary to cover outstanding court costs owed by Bennett Barbour to the Henrico County courts, relating to other previous charges, so that he will be able to vote this Tuesday. Mr. Barbour also owes fees to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but I have waived the requirement to pay those fees before having his rights restored. We did not have the authority under law to waive local court costs, and that is why the Innocence Project stepped up to cover those costs through private donations. When this payment is made today, it should remove the final hurdle to Mr. Barbour voting this Tuesday.

Mr Barbour was falsely convicted and imprisoned for rape. He lost years of his life; years he can never get back. It was, and is, a tragedy. On Tuesday, I hope Mr. Barbour will cast a vote in this Presidential election. I know it will mean so much to him. I am so thankful for all those, from the Innocence Project to our Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, who have worked so hard to make this happen for Mr. Barbour. This was a complicated and unique situation and it took long hours to sort through the details. That work was well worth it.  I believe strongly in ensuring that we have the fastest and fairest restoration of rights process in Virginia history. And that is the system we have established since we took office. Today is another positive step forward in this effort."

Barbour has never gotten the chance to vote in a Presidential election and because of his health, he may never get that chance again. That's why on election day, he says he's content to pass through the doors of his voting precinct and cast a vote that he says will matter in this close election.

"This mean more than anything," said Barbour. "Voting. You can't stop me now," said Barbour.

Facing death, Barbour says this right gives him the strength he needs. Barbour plans to cast his vote in Charles City County at 1 p.m. on election day.

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