MSN Gov. Terry McAuliffe will announce Monday that he has restored voting rights to 13,000 felons, defying the Republicans and state Supreme Court justices who last month stopped his more sweeping clemency effort.
McAuliffe’s planned action, confirmed by two people with knowledge of it, comes about a month after the Supreme Court of Virginia invalidated an executive order the Democrat issued in April. With that order, the governor restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons who had completed their sentences.
McAuliffe said his original order would move Virginia away from a harsh lifetime disenfranchisement policy that hits African Americans particularly hard.
Republicans, incensed that it covered violent and nonviolent offenders alike, said the move was really a bid to add Democrat-friendly voters to the rolls ahead of November’s presidential elections, when the governor’s close friend and political ally, Hillary Clinton, will be on the ballot.
Republicans also found the McAuliffe administration had mistakenly restored rights to 132 sex offenders still in custody and to several convicted murderers on probation in other states.
Contending that the governor had overstepped his authority by restoring rights en masse rather than case by case, GOP legislative leaders took him to court and won. Since 13,000 of the 200,000 felons had already registered to vote, the court ordered the state to once again put their names on its list of banned voters.
Immediately that ruling, McAuliffe vowed to use an autopen to individually sign orders restoring rights. He promised to do the first 13,000 within a week and all 200,000 within two.
“By the end of this week, I will have restored the rights of all 13,000!” McAuliffe declared last month.
Since then, the McAuliffe administration has acknowledged unspecified hold-ups but declined to provide a new timetable for restoring rights. On Friday came the first hint, with the release of McAuliffe’s official schedule.
At noon Monday, it said, he will appear at the Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square “to make major restoration of rights announcement.”
A McAuliffe spokeswoman, Christina Nuckols, declined to provide more information.
McAuliffe will announce that he has restored voting rights to the 13,000 felons, making them free to register once again, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose his plans. McAuliffe also will lay out his plans to restore rights to the remainder of the 200,000.