Virginia’s legislature should have a say in whether more than 200,000 ex-convicts get their voting rights restored ahead of the fall presidential election, Republican leaders said Tuesday as they called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to convene a special General Assembly session. The GOP leaders were reacting to an executive order that McAuliffe (D) announced Friday, which instantly restored the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole. McAuliffe and supporters said the move would advance civil rights and help reintegrate former convicts.
Republican critics saw it as a political favor to one of McAuliffe’s closest friends and allies, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who could benefit from higher numbers of minority voters. One in four African Americans in the swing state had been banned from voting because of laws restricting the rights of those with convictions.
In a letter, House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) said the sweeping voting change was too important for a governor to impose on his own.
“This is a matter of great consequence,” the legislative leaders said in their letter. “The people, through their elected representatives, deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard on this matter.”