Democratic Virginia Governor Decides Felons Should Vote

On Friday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) snapped his fingers and decided that ex-felons should be able to vote in order to hand the election to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November.

McAuliffe signed an executive order that allowed 206,000 ex-felons to be able to vote again. The governor attempted to justify the move by comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln and going full social justice warrior in protecting their feelings:

"Ten yards from where I spoke is where Abraham Lincoln addressed the freed slaves 151 years ago this month," McAuliffe said. "We have to end this process of disenfranchising folks. So, I used my authority, which I have, legal authority and the moral authority, today to restore the rights of 206,000 felons who... have served their time. They are done with probation. They are done with parole. They are free citizens."

"They live in their communities. They work. They have families. Let's make them full citizens of our commonwealth. Let's let them vote again. Let's let them feel good about themselves again. We have got to stop this disenfranchisement."

McAuliffe also whined that these ex-felons would be "embarrassed to tell their children" that they couldn't vote on election day.

This is obviously ridiculous. As Paul Mirengoff writes at the Power Line blog, "The felons whom McAuliffe has allowed to vote include murderers, rapists (including those who have committed child rape), armed robbers, and kidnappers. Is it churlish to ask whether people who have committed such heinous crimes ought to feel good about themselves?"

McAuliffe is also being disingenuous about the process of ex-felons not being able to vote. As legal experts Hans von Spakovsky and Roger Clegg explain at National Review, before McAuliffe's executive order, Virginia would methodically review each ex-felon's application to restore their voting rights, as there are high recidivism rates with ex-felons. For McAuliffe to act like ex-felons never had a chance to earn back their voting rights is simply false.

Additionally, McAuliffe's executive order is illegal. Von Spakovsky and Clegg point out that former Virgnia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) refused to restore voting rights to ex-felons via executive order because "a blanket order restoring the voting rights of everyone would be a rewrite of the law. . . . The notion that the Constitution of the Commonwealth could be rewritten via executive order is troubling."

Von Spakovsky and Clegg continue:

Similarly, then–attorney general Ken Cuccinelli (R.) appointed the Rights Restoration Advisory Committee to examine this issue. The committee included not only several Commonwealth Attorneys (i.e., the district attorneys of Virginia counties) and a professor from George Mason University but also Ashley Taylor Jr., a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Paul Goldman, the former senior adviser to Doug Wilder (D.), the first African-American governor of Virginia.

On May 10, 2013, the committee issued a report concluding that the governor does not have constitutional authority to “institute by executive order” a complete “restoration of rights for all convicted felons in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Why? Because his clemency power in Article 5 must be harmonized with Article 2, Section 1, which provides that “no person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored.” If, instead of acting individually to consider each “person” and “his civil rights,” the governor issues a blanket restoration, such “altering [of] the public policy of the Commonwealth as regards the disenfranchisement of persons convicted of felonies clearly would be a legislative act, not an administrative act.” It would be “difficult” for a court to “sustain a Governor’s exercise of [his] clemency power in so sweeping a manner that the Constitution’s general policy of disenfranchisement of felons is voided.”

In other words, McAuliffe is acting like President Barack Obama in using illegal executive orders to get his way. In this case McAuliffe is looking to throw the election to the Clintons–his allies–as 7 in 10 felons register as Democrats, according to a survey conducted by The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

McAuliffe has lectured Republicans on trying to win the felon vote, but he has essentially added 3.8 percent of 5.4 million voters to the Virginia electorate, which could be enough to push the swing state into a Clinton victory.

"In 2013, the current attorney general, Mark Herring (D.), won his race by only 907 votes. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R.) won his prior post as attorney general by only 360 votes in 2005," write von Spakovsky and Clegg. "Even the Washington Post, which applauded McAuliffe’s action, acknowledged there is “no doubt” about the “political dimension” in this move by 'a Democrat and longtime friend and fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton' — namely, that it 'grant[s] Democrats a crucial edge in a swing state ahead of November’s presidential election.'"

With the snap of his fingers, McAuliffe may have just handed the election to the Clintons.


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