Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday restored voting rights to 13,000 felons in the state who have completed their sentences, as part of his ongoing battle with the state Legislature over a larger legal push to allow roughly 200,000 more individuals convicted of felonies to vote. In April, the Democratic governor signed an executive order that would enfranchise felons who, by Virginia law, must personally apply to the governor to be able to vote upon the completion of their sentences. Republicans sued to stop the move saying the blanket restoration of voting rights amounted to executive overreach and the Virginia Supreme Court agreed, invalidating the move.
McAuliffe has framed the move as an effort to restore basic fairness and restore rights to individuals who have served their terms. “Virginia is one of 10 states that do not automatically restore rights upon completion of a felony sentence and one of only four states that require an application by the felon and action by the governor, according to the McAuliffe administration, which cited research showing one of every five African-Americans of voting age in Virginia has lost the right to vote,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
Republicans, however, saw the move by the longtime Clinton ally as an attempt to boost Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton’s electoral chances in the state come November. Adding felons to the voter roll has the potential to boost the state’s registered voters by nearly 4 percent, according to the Times-Dispatch. Sloppy implementation of the initial executive order didn’t help McAuliffe’s case; more than 100 sex offenders still in prison and several convicted killers on probation elsewhere slipped through the cracks.