Armed with an autopen, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said two weeks ago that he had all he needed to swiftly but individually restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons. But McAuliffe (D) has since decided that he needs something else: time. McAuliffe brought delegates to their feet at last month’s Democratic National Convention when he vowed to defy the state’s highest court, which had just struck down his April executive order to restore voting rights to felons who had completed their sentences. He said the 200,000 felons would have their rights back in the space of two weeks. That self-imposed deadline came and went Monday without a single felon’s rights having been restored. McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said the governor is taking the time necessary to make sure the rights-restoration orders are handled properly.
“The headline here is, ‘Governor ensures process is correct,’ ” Coy said. “We’re making sure we fully comply with the court’s order, making sure he’s done a review of the individuals in question here, and then he will take action.” Coy declined to lay out a new timetable but said no action would be taken before the state Board of Elections meets Wednesday to discuss the matter.
McAuliffe was criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his handling of the original executive order, plagued by multiple errors. The administration accidentally restored rights to 132 sex offenders who were still in custody, for example, as well as to convicted murderers still on probation in other states.
Some of those critics were not sure what to make of the delay. “We’re waiting to see what he does,” said Del. Rob B. Bell III (R-Albemarle), a candidate for state attorney general in 2017 who has led the charge against McAuliffe’s original clemency order. “Obviously he’s made various public comments about finding a way to circumvent [the court ruling]. . . . We’ll see what he comes up with and we will review it.”