Cheryl Fleming can’t wait to vote in November. The 54-year-old who lives in Fairfax County had her voting rights restored in April by Gov. Terry McAuliffe after losing them in 1989 for forging checks to buy drugs. She has never seen the inside of a polling booth. “I was so excited I was screaming in the house,” Fleming said of hearing that she got her voting rights back. “I’ve put my life back together and this was still being held against me,” said Fleming, who now works as an Uber driver. If Republican lawmakers are successful in their legal challenge to McAuliffe’s executive order, Fleming and more than 200,000 ex-felons who’ve completed their sentences could again be stripped of the ability to vote. At issue when the Virginia Supreme Court meets Tuesday to hear the case is whether the state’s constitution allows governors to restore political rights en masse or requires them to be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Republicans say McAuliffe clearly violated the constitution, pointing to the words “person” and “his civil rights” in the document as evidence that governors can only “remove political disabilities” individually. That’s the conclusion reached by two previous administrations that studied the issue, Republicans note.
“Gov. McAuliffe is entitled to disagree with the policies of the Virginia Constitution, but he is not entitled to nullify those he dislikes,” attorneys for GOP House Speaker William Howell, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment and other voters write in their lawsuit.
McAuliffe’s administration and backers say there’s nothing in the constitution that says or even implies that governors must restore a person’s rights on a case-by-case basis. Just because no governor has done it before doesn’t mean it’s not allowed, the administration says, arguing that if the constitution’s writers would have made it clear if they wanted that to be the case.
Full Article: Battle over felons’ voting heads to Virginia Supreme Court.