The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday voided Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s effort to restore voting rights to 206,000 people with felony records. Mr. McAuliffe issued an order in April to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences while also completing parole and probation, and followed with similar orders in May and June. He cast felon-disenfranchisement laws as a troubling tool that whites had wielded to suppress votes among blacks. The state’s high court in a 4-3 ruling struck down all the orders, ruling they violated Virginia’s constitution. The court’s majority said the “unprecedented scope, magnitude, and categorical nature” of the governor’s actions violated the legal limits on his clemency powers. Mr. McAuliffe can use those clemency powers on a case-by-case basis to restore a felon’s civil rights, but “that does not mean he can effectively rewrite the general rule of law” in Virginia that says convicted felons are disqualified from voting, the court said.
State Republicans accused Mr. McAuliffe of playing politics in hopes of keeping Virginia in the Democrat’s camp this fall. Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William Howell and state Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment argued in May, while taking the case to the state’s Supreme Court, that the state constitution only allows the governor to restore an individual felon’s voting rights.
Political observers expected the governor’s order would add more votes for Democrats than Republicans because those affected are disproportionately black, and black voters are widely acknowledged to more likely support Democrats. Virginia was a longtime Republican stronghold in presidential elections, but Barack Obama won the state twice with help from significant black-voter turnout.
Full Article: Virginia Supreme Court Blocks Voting Rights for Felons – WSJ.