Va. Gov. Vows to Restore Voting Rights, Felon by Felon

Republicans say he's trying to help Clinton
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2016 10:22 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's safe to assume that there will be some serious hand cramping in Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s future. The Democratic governor vows to "expeditiously sign nearly 13,000 individual orders" to restore the voting rights of felons in his state, NPR reports. "And I will continue to sign orders until I have completed restoration for all 200,000 Virginians." McAuliffe's Friday declaration came after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the governor didn't have the authority to restore the voting rights of 206,000 ex-offenders by way of a single executive order. From the court's 4-3 ruling: "Never before have any of the prior 71 Virginia governors issued a clemency order of any kind … to a class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request."

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Some 13,000 felons have registered to vote since McAuliffe's April 22 executive order, the Washington Post reports. The court ordered that those registrations be canceled by Aug. 25. Republicans have been critical of McAuliffe's blanket restoration of voting rights for felons, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying it was a move to garner thousands more votes for Hillary Clinton. "This opinion is a sweeping rebuke of the governor’s unprecedented assertion of executive authority,” two top Virginia Republicans said in a statement, per the Times-Dispatch. In his own statement, McAuliffe said his executive order, which applied only to felons who had finished serving their terms, was part of "the struggle for civil and human rights." The right to vote "means you count," a recently released offender told NPR earlier this month. "It doesn't do anybody any good to try to disenfranchise anybody and make it harder for them to reintegrate themselves into society." (Read more Virginia stories.)

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