Governor expected to restore voting rights to 13,000 Virginia felons

Posted at 6:58 AM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 07:02:31-04

RICHMOND-- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is expected to restore voting rights to 13,000 felons who have served their prison sentences.

The governor's "major restoration of rights announcement" was expected to happen Monday afternoon, according to the Washington Post.

Governor McAuliffe initially issued an executive order in April that automatically restored voting rights to approximately 206,000 Virginia felons, but that order was challenged by state lawmakers. Ultimately, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down McAuliffe's order calling it unconstitutional.

Writing for a 4-3 court, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons held that the "assertion that a Virginia governor has the power to grant blanket, group pardons" is "irreconcilable" with the Constitution of Virginia.

"Never before," Lemons wrote, "have any of the prior 71 Virginia governors" issued such a clemency order of any kind, "whether to restore civil rights or grant a pardon, to an entire class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request."

In a statement, McAuliffe vowed to sign nearly 13,000 individual orders to restore voting rights to felons. Those 13,000 individuals registered after his initial executive order.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruling was considered a political setback to Democrats and was issued about an hour before Hillary Clinton announced she would choose former Virginia governor and current Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. The court's opinion actually mentions Kaine, noting that when he was governor he contemplated a similar executive order but in the end was advised that he couldn't issue such a sweeping action.

Election law expert Rick Hasen called the opinion a "big blow both politically to Democrats (who would have gotten a boost from the restoration of voting rights to felons who had secured their sentences) as well as to the cause of felon re-enfranchisement generally."

CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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