Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia has used his executive powers to sign a sweeping measure that is aimed at restoring some of the rights of convicted felons within the state.
The measure will restore full voting rights to all convicted felons after they serve their time. According to a report by the New York Times, McAuliife probably didn’t make this move out of the goodness of his heart. As with many issues, politics seemingly played a role:
The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole to register to vote. Most are African-Americans, a core constituency of Democrats, Mr. McAuliffe’s political party.
“There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” Mr. McAuliffe said Thursday, previewing the announcement he will make on the steps of Virginia’s Capitol, just yards from where President Abraham Lincoln once addressed freed slaves. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can.”
The action, which Mr. McAuliffe said was justified under an expansive legal interpretation of his executive clemency authority, goes far beyond what other governors have done, experts say, and will almost certainly provoke a backlash from Virginia Republicans, who have resisted measures to expand felons’ voting rights. It has been planned in secrecy, and comes amid an intensifying national debate over race, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.
Basically, McAuliffe is using his power to pardon people under his gubernatorial powers en masse to essentially issue a standing pardon for any felon who has completed their sentence. Opponents of the move will likely argue that McAuliffe must consider each and every clemency case individually.