Restoration of Rights

Governor McAuliffe's statement in response to the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling on his April 22nd order restoring the rights of more than 200,000 Virginians

“Once again, the Virginia Supreme Court has placed Virginia as an outlier in the struggle for civil and human rights. It is a disgrace that the Republican leadership of Virginia would file a lawsuit to deny more than 200,000 of their own citizens the right to vote. And I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many thousands of men and women who had rejoiced with their families earlier this year when their rights were restored.

“Forty states give citizens who have made mistakes and paid their debt to society a straightforward process for restoring voting rights. I remain committed to moving past our Commonwealth’s history of injustice to embrace an honest process for restoring the rights of our citizens, and I believe history and the vast majority of Virginians are on our side.

“Despite the Court’s ruling, we have the support of the state’s four leading constitutional experts, including A.E. Dick Howard, who drafted the current Virginia Constitution. They are convinced that our action is within the constitutional authority granted to the Office of the Governor.

“The men and women whose voting rights were restored by my executive action should not be alarmed. I will expeditiously sign nearly 13,000 individual orders to restore the fundamental rights of the citizens who have had their rights restored and registered to vote. And I will continue to sign orders until I have completed restoration for all 200,000 Virginians. My faith remains strong in all of our citizens to choose their leaders, and I am prepared to back up that faith with my executive pen. The struggle for civil rights has always been a long and difficult one, but the fight goes on.” – Governor Terry McAuliffe

The fight continues

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Editorial Boards Continue to Support Governor McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Order

Editorial pages from across the country continue to voice support for Governor McAuliffe’s historic action to restore voting and civil rights to more than 200,000 Virginians who have paid their time. As the pieces linked below note, Governor McAuliffe’s action is within his constitutional authority and represents a positive step away from Virginia’s dark history of disenfranchisement.

New York Times
A Second Chance and the Right to Vote:

Mr. McAuliffe took a bolder and more just step last month by restoring those rights to all people with felony convictions. Republican lawmakers say this action “overstepped the bounds of his authority and the constitutional limits on executive powers.”

They fail to point to any provision in the state’s Constitution or laws to support this claim, because there isn’t one. Virginia’s Constitution explicitly empowers the governor “to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” for felonies. It places no qualifications or limitations on that power.

Washington Post
Restoring Virginians’ voting rights:

The ban on voting by felons has disenfranchised nearly a quarter-million African Americans in Virginia, about a fifth of the total. Mr. McAuliffe’s office has issued extensive citations from the constitution, under which a felon is banned from voting “unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor” and further empowers the governor to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction.”

That looks like sufficient constitutional basis for Mr. McAuliffe’s action, on top of the moral imperative of erasing one of the last and most noxious vestiges of Jim Crow in Virginia.

Lynchburg News and Advance
Restoring a Citizen's Fundamental Civil Rights:

Opponents of the governor’s move likely will challenge him in court; that’s their right. But we believe, in the final analysis, Gov. McAuliffe’s action is entirely constitutional. It is the right thing to do, the moral thing to do.