Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says his move to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons who have completed their sentences was the right thing to do and not a political move.
In an interview Sunday with ABC’s This Week, McAuliffe said the move had nothing to do with politics despite claims by Republicans that signing the executive order was a blatant move to get votes for Hillary Clinton.
“It was the right thing to do legally. It wasn’t politics. It was the right thing to do morally.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 22, 2016
On Friday, McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring the voting rights to 206,000 convicted felons in the state, saying the order was meant to rectify Virginia’s “long and sad history” of suppressing African-American voting power. The order includes both violent and nonviolent offenders who served their time and completed any supervised release, parole, or probation requirements, according to the Los Angeles Times.
McAuliffe announced the decision on the steps of the state Capitol following a performance by a gospel choir.
“We benefit from a more just and accountable government when we put trust in all of our citizens to choose their leaders. It has taken Virginia many centuries, unfortunately, to learn this lesson. But today, we celebrate its truth.”
The move was seen by the GOP as a way to help McAuliffe’s longtime friend, Hillary Clinton, win the swing state on the premise that most felons would vote Democratic if given the choice.
In a statement, Republican Party of Virginia chairman John Whitbeck denounced the decision as “political opportunism.”
“Restoration of rights should be a celebration of overcoming, not a transparent effort to win votes.”
— TRUMPTRAIN (@OnlyHotyP) April 23, 2016
In a statement, Speaker of the House William J. Howell came straight to the point.
“It is hard to describe how transparent the Governor’s motives are. The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s Cabinet.”
McAuliffe shot back on Sunday, saying the Republicans that worry that the decision could influence swing states in the general election need to “quit complaining.”
“I would tell them to be very careful how they frame this. They have an opportunity to go out and get these individual new voters to vote for them.”
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) April 22, 2016
Terry McAuliffe anticipated the GOP backlash when he announced the executive order on Friday.
“There may be some individuals who will try and demagogue this issue and will make reckless accusations. Our action today does not pardon or change the sentence for any man or woman affected by this plan. These individuals have completed their sentences. They have atoned for their actions.”
I Grew Up In Virginia Beach Va. Now Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is Destroying that State. Sick & Pathetic.pic.twitter.com/MzCO8daITO
— Ron Hutchcraft™ (@Ron_Hutchcraft) April 23, 2016
Republicans lambasted the executive order, claiming that including violent crimes with less serious offenses will offer murderers and rapists the right to vote, serve on juries, hold public office and notarize documents, according to the Richmond-Time Dispatch.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, roughly 5.85 million Americans with felony convictions are prevented from voting across the United States.
[Photo by AP Images]