Governor holds fast to restoring voting rights

WASHINGTON – Gov. Terry McAuliffe continued Tuesday to defend his campaign to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences.

“Why do you possibly not want these folks to vote?” McAuliffe asked of his critics, none of whom was present. “It’s the right thing to do.”

McAuliffe spoke on a panel at a criminal justice summit that drew a list of participants from politics, law enforcement and the legal profession.

McAuliffe has been restoring voting rights one at a time since the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers in a lawsuit challenging his authority to issue a blanket order restoring the rights of hundreds of thousands of convicted felons.

McAuliffe is still bristling at the court’s decision but said he will not be deterred by it.

“I have the constitutional authority to do it,” McAuliffe said, adding that he continues to restore felons’ voting rights on a more laborious individual basis as past governors have done.

McAuliffe dismissed criticism that his actions fail to distinguish between non-violent and violent offenders and special kinds of crimes such as those committed by sex offenders.

Judges make such distinctions when they impose sentences, McAuliffe said, adding it should not be up to governors to add their own subjective judgments to decisions already made in the legal system.

McAuliffe said governors will see different crimes in different ways, which means the restoration of felons’ voting rights depends on who is in power.

“No matter what your crime, you should not for the rest of your life be permanently disenfranchised,” McAuliffe said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

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