The Supreme Court of Virginia will hold a special session on July 19 to take up the Republican challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order restoring voting rights for more than 200,000 felons. Republican leaders in the General Assembly had sought to have the case heard as early as next month, arguing in court filings that the matter should be decided by Aug. 25 at the latest to avoid “casting doubt on the legitimacy” of the November election. “We are pleased the Supreme Court recognizes the urgency of our challenge to Governor McAuliffe’s unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of executive power,” House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said in a statement Wednesday. Howell is a plaintiff in the case along with Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, and four voters.
In filings defending the order, Attorney General Mark R. Herring did not object to a special session. But he urged the court not to rush the case by scheduling argument in early June, noting that Republicans spent a month preparing their challenge to an order that took effect April 22.
In perhaps his most sweeping executive action, McAuliffe restored the voting and civil rights of roughly 206,000 felons who had completed their sentences and supervised release as of April 22. The governor signed his first monthly renewal of the order Tuesday, adding roughly 1,200 more ex-offenders who met the criteria between April 22 and April 30.
The governor has said he will update the order on a rolling basis because he cannot create a fully automatic rights restoration process. According to the secretary of the commonwealth’s office, which oversees the rights restoration process, McAuliffe intends to sign another order in mid-June covering the entire month of May.