RICHMOND, Va. (UPI) — Virginia Gov. Terry R. McAuliffe has begun what’s expected to be a laborious and time-consuming enterprise — restoring the rights to vote and perform other civic duties for hundreds of thousands of convicted felons, on an individual basis.
The governor announced Monday the rights had been restored to about 13,000 former prisoners — which will allow them to vote, run for office, perform jury duty and become notaries public. He previously said he planned to do the same for 200,000 felons.
“Restoring the rights of individuals who have served their time and re-entered society is the right thing to do,” McAuliffe said in his announcement. “Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement policy is rooted in a tragic history of voter suppression and marginalization of minorities, and it needs to be overturned.”
Monday was McAuliffe’s second go-round at restoring the rights — after an earlier and far less complicated attempt was rejected by the Virginia Supreme Court.
In April, he issued a blanket clemency order to restore the rights for all felons who had completed their prison sentences and were no longer on probation or parole. Opponents argued that voting rights should be restored on a case-by-case basis — out of concern for the types of crimes committed and whether they warrant further rights suspension — and not in one giant, sweeping act.
The Virginia Supreme Court agreed and nullified the governor’s order. McAuliffe replied by stating he would restore the rights individually if that’s what was necessary. Monday was the beginning of that process.
“The court directed the Secretary of the Commonwealth to delete from the records any individuals who had their rights restored under [the blanket] orders, and for the Department of Elections to cancel the voter registration of any individual who had been restored under these orders,” McAuliffe’s office said Monday. “After a thorough review process, Gov. McAuliffe will direct the secretary’s office to process the restoration paperwork for each individual that meet his criteria for restoration.”
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution permits each state to determine its own laws regarding felons’ voting rights.
McAuliffe also reiterated Monday that he will try and get the Virginia General Assembly to permanently repeal the state’s policy against automatic restoration of the rights for rehabilitated felons.
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