Tuesday, 12 July 2016 01:27

Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Virginia

Written by Brennan Center for Justice

Virginia is one of four states whose constitution permanently disenfranchises citizens with past felony convictions, but grants the state’s governor the authority to restore voting rights. This April, Gov. Terry McAuliffe used that authority to re-enfranchise over 200,000 Virginians. This executive order is now the subject of two lawsuits, one of which is pending before the state’s Supreme Court.

Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order

On April 22, 2016, Gov. McAuliffe issued an executive order restoring voting rights to Virginians with felony convictions who, as of that date, had completed the terms of their incarceration and any period of supervised release (probation or parole). At that time, Gov. McAuliffe also announced his intention to issue monthly orders restoring rights to citizens who complete their terms of incarceration and any period of supervised release. On May 31, 2016, he issued a second order, which restored rights to Virginians who had completed sentences since the first order.

Through his action, Gov. McAuliffe immediately restored voting rights to an estimated 206,000 Virginians, who were ineligible to vote under the state’s previous policy of permanently disenfranchising all citizens with criminal convictions unless they individually applied for voting rights restoration.

With this move and with Gov. McAuliffe’s plan to continue issuing such orders, Virginia joins 39 other states and DC that allow all citizens with past criminal convictions to vote – either when they complete their sentences or even earlier.

State Materials on Order:

Legal Challenges

On May 23, 2016, a group of Republican legislators and other voters filed a lawsuit in the state’s Supreme Court challenging Gov. McAuliffe’s executive action. The challengers are seeking to prevent the 200,000-plus newly enfranchised Virginians from voting. Their case, Howell v. McAuliffe, argues that Gov. McAuliffe did not have the constitutional authority to restore voting rights on a collective basis – a position disputed by others, including an expert who helped draft the current version of the state’s constitution.

The challengers also requested that the Supreme Court hear Howell v. McAuliffe on an expedited schedule. The Virginia Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument in the case for July 19, 2016.

On June 14, 2016, a group of voters filed a lawsuit in the Virginia Circuit Court of Bedford County challenging Gov. McAuliffe’s action.

Read the complete article at Brennan Center for Justice

Read 4528 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 02:34