Whenever America enters the home stretch of an election cycle, the argument over voting rights also tends to heat up. In a previous post the concept of restoring voting rights to felons was discussed, specifically in Virginia under Governor Terry McAuliffe.
In short, Governor McAuliffe wanted to restore the voting rights to a large portion of felons who had surrendered their right to vote when they were found guilty and convicted. The Governor’s initial attempt was to sign an executive order that restored more than 200,000 felons with their right to vote. Republican legislative leaders filed suit against the order, and won; the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that the blanket clemency order had to be thrown out and if the Governor wished to restore felon voting rights, he would have to do so on a case-by-case basis.
Within approximately a month, Governor McAuliffe had restored the voting rights to 13,000 felons, on the case-by-case basis required by the Court. And again, Republican leadership turned to the Court in hopes of blocking the Governor.
However, on September 15, the Virginia Supreme Court turned down a request from Republicans to find Governor McAuliffe in contempt and violation of the court’s decision earlier this summer. The Court recognized that the Governor was following their procedural order in how to restore the voting right, even if he was doing it at a pace disliked by his political counterparts.
With this ruling it would appear that the fight over this election cycle’s voting rights controversy is over, at least for Virginia, but it is unlikely to stay calm for long. Republican legislatures in Virginia have moved on from the courts and will look to override the Governor’s actions next year when the legislative cycle begins. It is unclear whether the goal will be to simply curb the Governor’s powers of clemency moving forward or if the Republicans will try to revoke the newly restored right to vote for the felons.
Regardless of what next year brings for Virginia, it should be important to remember that in the scheme of democracy in America, the right to vote is one of the fundamental rights. One’s vote is one’s voice and power to make a statement about how they feel about the government. This outcome in Virginia should not just be looked at as a victory for Governor McAuliffe, but a victory for America because a segment of the population was just re-introduced to the democratic process that makes this country great.
Finally, it should be noted that the Governor intends to restore the right to all 200,000 initially covered by the executive order. It is unlikely that all 200,000 will be completed by this election day, but it’s nice to see politicians working and making a difference rather than arguing and not accomplishing anything.
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