Republican lawmakers in Virginia said on Monday that they were considering a court challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s decision to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, opening the door to a legal battle that could create uncertainties about their ability to vote in November. “Governor McAuliffe’s flagrant disregard for the Constitution of Virginia and the rule of law must not go unchecked,” Thomas K. Norment Jr., a Republican and the majority leader of Virginia’s State Senate, said. On Monday, Mr. Norment and another Republican, William J. Howell, the speaker of the state’s House of Delegates, said they had retained Charles J. Cooper, a prominent conservative lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court in support of California’s onetime ban on same-sex marriage, “to examine the legal options to remedy this Washington-style overreach by the executive branch.” Mr. McAuliffe issued an order on April 22 that effectively did away with his state’s Civil War-era limitations on voting rights for convicted felons, many of whom are African-Americans, by allowing those who have completed their prison and parole or probation time to vote.
His action was hailed as a victory for enfranchisement but prompted a backlash from Republicans, who accused the governor of overstepping his Constitutional authority as part of a political gambit to get more Democratic voters to the polls in November. Mr. McAuliffe is a longtime political ally of Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, and Virginia could be a crucial swing state in November, but Mr. McAuliffe denied that the action was motivated by politics.
“His predecessors and previous attorneys general examined this issue and consistently concluded Virginia’s governor does not have the power to issue blanket restorations,” Mr. Norment said in his statement. “By doing so now with the acknowledged goal of affecting the November election, he has overstepped the bounds of his authority and the constitutional limits on executive powers.