Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s blanket executive order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons who had completed their jail sentence and probation/parole has had some unintended consequences.
Several violent criminals who are jailed outside of Virginia or are still under supervised probation in other states nonetheless gained back their voting rights under McAuliffe’s action, the Washington Post reported.
In a separate Post account, about 130 violent sex offenders (out of 370 so far) who are being detained in one Virginia facility under civil confinement after serving their criminal sentences also regained the right to vote.
The McAuliffe administration told the Post that it had corrected the errors with regard to the out-of-state felons. A spokesman “attributed the errors to flaws in a system officials devised to identify convicted felons in Virginia. But officials did not check for felons living outside Virginia…”
As far as the sexual predators are concerned, McAuliffe’s staff argues that they are excluded by the executive order in the first place, although some legal experts disagree based on the separate legal status of civil custody versus a criminal sentence and its aftermath. “The McAuliffe administration is pushing back against the report, saying that the restoration of civil rights to those 132 individuals was a mistake and that their status should not have been changed by the executive order. A spokesperson told the Post that McAuliffe’s order excluded felons that were under ‘supervised release,'” the Washington Free Beacon explained.
Virginia Republicans have filed a lawsuit against McAuliffe, who was a well-known Clinton fundraiser before his election as governor, to overturn the executive order on grounds that he exceeded his authority under the state constitution. The state supreme court has agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis so that the controversy can be resolved before voters head to the polls in November.
When it was announced in April, 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, the Inquisitr previously detailed.
According to The Daily Signal, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe’s fellow Democrat and predecessor in the governor’s mansion, considered but dropped the idea of a similar executive order based on legal advice that he lacked the authority to move forward on it.
The latest move was also seen by the GOP as a way to help McAuliffe’s longtime friend, Hillary Clinton, win the swing state in the upcoming presidential election on the premise that most felons would vote Democrat if given the choice. About 5,000 have registered so far.
Judicial Watch is also suing McAuliffe, a lawyer with the organization told The Daily Signal, because the right to vote by convicted felons should be earned rather than doled out automatically.
“Our complaint is that this was done contrary to the law. The Virginia Constitution says the only way convicted felons can get their full civil rights—including voting rights—restored is by making an individual application to the state, which then processes and considers whether that individual is entitled to getting his rights back. What they have done here is do away with that whole process and just say everybody can get their rights back.”
In a news release, Judicial Watch added that the votes of properly qualified Virginians will be watered down or cancelled out by what it considered illegitimate votes through Gov. McAuliffe’s sweeping executive order.
Gov. McAuliffe justified his executive order in part on eliminating the legacy of Jim Crow rather than on political considerations. As the Wall Street Journal noted, however, the controlling statute dates back to 1830, well before African-Americans gained the right to vote. “The felon disenfranchisement provision could not have been introduced for the purpose of disenfranchising them.”
“Reasonable people can disagree whether all felons should automatically regain the right to vote or serve on a jury. But this is a policy choice that requires an amendment to the state’s constitution, adopted by the people of Virginia and their representatives in the General Assembly—not by a single person in the executive mansion,” the WSJ asserted.
Separately, the feds have launched a criminal investigation into the governor’s campaign fundraising practices.
In Virginia, governors can only serve one consecutive, four-year term under current law. Terry McAuliffe narrowly defeated ex-AG Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 statewide election.
[Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP]