Monday, August 22, 2016

VA Gov. McAuliffe Again Restoring Felons Voting Rights

In April, the Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order restoring voting rights to people convicted of felonies who had served their terms, including prison, probation, or parole. But that right was quickly stripped away again when the State’s Supreme Court ruled in July that McAuliffe overstepped his authority in issuing the blanket restoration of rights.

Today he will announce that he has restored voting rights to 13,000 felons, defying the Republicans and State Supreme Court Justices who last month stopped his more sweeping clemency effort.

McAuliffe’s planned action will restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons who had completed their sentences.

McAuliffe said his original order would move Virginia away from a harsh lifetime disenfranchisement policy that hits African Americans particularly hard.

Republicans, incensed that it covered violent and nonviolent offenders alike, said the move was really a bid to add Democrat-friendly voters to the rolls ahead of November’s Presidential elections, when the Governor’s close friend and political ally Hillary Clinton will be on the ballot. Republicans also found the McAuliffe administration had mistakenly restored rights to 132 sex offenders still in custody and to several convicted murderers on probation in other states.

The McAuliffe administration has acknowledged unspecified hold-ups but declined to provide a new timetable for restoring rights. On Friday came the first hint, with the release of McAuliffe’s official schedule. At noon Monday, it said, he will appear at the Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square “to make major restoration of rights announcement.”

McAuliffe will announce that he has restored voting rights to the 13,000 felons, making them free to register once again, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose his plans. McAuliffe also will lay out his plans to restore rights to the remainder of the 200,000.

Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said she would cheer another restoration plan, particularly one that restores rights before October, the registration deadline for voting in November. “We think it’s the right thing to do, and we’re hopeful it will get done in time for people to be able to register before the deadline,” she said.

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, a 2017 candidate for State Attorney General who has led the charge against McAuliffe’s order, said he would watch any new restoration efforts closely given implementation problems with the original order. “Given that his first order was unconstitutional and included a non-citizen sex offender in Peru, we will certainly want to review whatever he does on Monday very carefully,” Bell said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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