Governor vows to restore voting rights through executive action
The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday overturned Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order to restore the voting rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons who have completed their sentences, declaring the governor’s action unconstitutional. McAuliffe immediately promised to restore those voting rights through executive action.
As that case moved forward, Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman had been pressing McAuliffe’s office for a list of those whose rights had been restored, filing a case in Loudoun County Circuit Court this week. Plowman’s request relates to concerns about the jury selection.
Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons’ wrote the opinion for the 4-3 majority that stated McAuliffe’s actions stand in contrast to the actions of 71 governors of Virginia, none of whom “claimed the executive power under Article V, Section 12 to grant reprieves, pardons, and commutations, and to remove political disabilities was absolute, subject to no restraining principle of law whatsoever. Governor McAuliffe’s contention to the contrary is unprecedented.
“In this case, Governor McAuliffe has openly declared his disagreement with the voter disqualification provision in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia,” Lemons continued. “Although the Governor is entitled to champion his views, he cannot do so in contravention of law.”
McAuliffe, a Democrat with ties to presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, called the lawsuit against his executive order, filed by state Republicans, “a disgrace” and vowed to continue his pursuit to restore those rights.
“The men and women whose voting rights were restored by my executive action should not be alarmed,” stated McAuliffe in a press release Friday. “I will expeditiously sign nearly 13,000 individual orders to restore the fundamental rights of the citizens who have had their rights restored and registered to vote. And I will continue to sign orders until I have completed restoration for all 200,000 Virginians.”
McAuliffe’s move came during a presidential election year, a not-so-veiled attempt to increase the number of potential voters in the state, which has voted Democrat in a number of recent statewide elections.