Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has been dealt a major blow in his plan to deliver his state to Hillary in the November elections.
Earlier this year, Gov. McAuliffe declared he would be restoring voting rights to 200,000 felons, in a move that was largely seen as an attempt to curry favor for Hillary with a new massive voting bloc.
But the Virginia Supreme Court has just struck down McAuliffe’s controversial order.
By a decision of 4-3, the Virginia Supreme Court has struck down a landmark executive order issued by Governor Terry McAuliffe earlier this year that restored the voting rights of over 200,000 former felons.
A group of Republican leaders sued Governor McAuliffe and a list of others, after the governor signed the order in April. This gave former felons the ability to vote, serve on a jury and run for office. Felons must have completed their time and not be under any current supervision.
Republicans argued before a packed courtroom that the executive order is unconstitutional and puts too much power into the hands of the governor. Attorneys said that Governor McAuliffe is abusing his executive authority, and that it sets a dangerous precedent.
“Never before have any of the prior 71 Virginia Governors issued a clemency order of any kind — including pardons, reprieves, commutations, and restoration orders — to a class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request,” the decision reads. “To be sure, no Governor of this Commonwealth, until now, has even suggested that such a power exists.”
While the issue has been crafted as a “civil rights” issue by the Democrats, the unprecedented move by Virginia’s governor seemed more motivated by politics.
From the first day his plan was announced, conservatives in Virginia — and even across the country — have condemned the move.
Issues with it were quickly pointed out, such as the lack of specific attention to any felon’s circumstances for rights being restored. The nature of the order had a blanket effect, restoring everyone who fit certain criteria without individual reviews.
Neither the list of felons, nor the nature of their crimes, have been released to the public. The possibility is quite high that sexual offenders are among those the governor seeks to reprieve. One court justice took particular issue with this lack of information.
Furthermore, concerns were raised over allowing convicted felons to sit on juries — where they may very well be asked to rule on crimes similar to their own.
In response to the governor’s order, Virginia Republican legislators filed a lawsuit to stop the unconstitutional executive order. They specifically cited the issue of the governor’s order coming during an election year, saying the act would “dilute” the voice of non-felon voters.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republicans, “respectfully disagreeing” with the governor. “The clemency power may be broad, but it is not absolute,” the decision explains.
While the governor has the power to grant clemency, the Republicans argued that the power must be used on an individual basis, not via blanket decree. The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed with them.
McAuliffe has since announced he will not let the Supreme Court’s ruling thwart his election gerrymandering schemes. He has now pledged to restore the voting rights of all 200,000 felons individually.
There is still no hope that the governor’s office will give any actual consideration to those he’s restoring, as his office will have to process 2,000 or more names a day in order to meet the deadline for the “former felons” to register to vote.