In a defiant move, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announced Monday (Aug. 22) that he would restore the voting rights of 13,000 ex-felons, after the state’s highest court halted his earlier executive order to do so.
“I personally believe in the power of second chances,” he said.
In April, McAuliffe, a Democrat, granted the right to vote and other civil rights to more than 200,000 ex-offenders who had already served out their sentences. Thirteen thousand of them then registered to vote. But after Republican lawmakers complained that McAuliffe had made his decision en masse, and not on a case-by-case basis, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in July that his decision was unconstitutional.
The opposing legislators found that McAuliffe’s list wrongly included sex offenders still serving their sentences. But their main beef with their governor was the suspicion that the effort was designed to create voters likely to cast ballots for close friend Hillary Clinton in the November presidential elections. The governor’s office has countered accusations by releasing the names and addresses of the new voters to show that they live in urban areas that usually vote Democrat anyway.
Monday’s decision restored the ex-offenders’ votes once again, after the governor’s administration said it had examined every case individually.
“These individuals are gainfully employed. They send their children and their grandchildren to our schools. They shop in our grocery stores and they pay taxes. And I am not content to condemn them for eternity as inferior second-class citizens,” McAuliffe said. He said he would restore the rights of other ex-felons on a case-by-case basis.