is a clear and flagrant abuse of Virginia’s Freedom of Information
Act. The list is the result of the policy, not an item that went into
formulating the policy.
What the Administration really fears is that a review of the
list will reveal how many individuals who have had their political
rights restored still owe restitution, have unpaid fines, or are still
incarcerated in another state or in a federal institution. Governor
McAuliffe’s refusal to release the list is protecting only his
reputation and shielding his Administration’s incompetence from
In their rush to applaud McAuliffe, many of the state’s editorial
pages ignored the real consequences to the state. The Literary Fund,
established by the Constitution of Virginia, supports our public
schools with low-interest loans for school construction and other
essential funding. Criminal fines and fees provide the primary source
of revenue for the Fund. Now, the Governor has made it much less
likely the Fund will ever see the fines owed it from those whose
political rights he has restored.
McAuliffe’s order also restored the rights of these felons to
serve on juries. Imagine the added challenge facing Virginia’s
Commonwealth’s Attorneys, who now face the prospect of
impaneling juries with felons as evidenced by the Trooper Walker
The final sentence of Governor McAuliffe’s order reads,
“Nothing in this Order restores the right to ship, transport, possess, or
receive firearms.” Perhaps that statement was included because the
order was issued by a politician publicly committed to gun control.
Effectively, however, the order strengthens the hand of convicted
felons—including those convicted of violent crimes—seeking full
restoration of their gun rights.
Executive overreach, which has become commonplace in
Washington during President Obama’s tenure, is now fully ensconced
in Richmond. Having spectacularly failed at his attempt to subvert
the Constitution’s clearly stated process for appointing judges last
year, Governor McAuliffe has now moved on to extra-constitutional
actions that carry a bigger payoff: votes.
These are the all too real consequences of decisions made solely
to advance a political goal, in this case adding voters to the electorate
perceived to be sympathetic to a particular party.
For Governor McAuliffe, all of these consequences are for a
greater good: President Hillary Clinton.
n issuing his order restoring the political
rights of 206,000 convicted felons,
Governor McAuliffe inched closer to a
goal that has become the primary mission
of his administration: delivering Virginia’s
13 Electoral Votes to Hillary Clinton this
November. But in pursuing this political
goal, he has disregarded the Constitution
of Virginia he is sworn to uphold and
disrespected the people he was elected to
The Constitution of Virginia has
prohibited felons from voting since 1830. It is not a vestige of Jim
Crow, as the Governor has falsely asserted. His attempt to rewrite—
and wholly misrepresent—Virginia history to inaccurately portray
his action as remedying a racial injustice is evidence of rank political
Because Virginians believe in second chances, the Constitution
of Virginia also allows convicted felons to apply to have their
political rights restored by the Governor on a case-by-case basis,
which I support. For all of McAuliffe’s predecessors, restoring
the political rights of those convicted of felonies had been an
appropriately deliberate and judicious process. McAuliffe’s two
immediate predecessors developed and published specific criteria
for the restoration of political rights. Focused on ensuring those
whose rights were restored had completed
of the provisions of
their sentences, these criteria included not only the completion of
all probationary requirements, but the satisfaction of all fines and
restitution as well.
McAuliffe’s order is the opposite of deliberate and judicious.
News accounts understandably focused on its short-term political
implications. After all, seven of the nine points made to justify
his actions in the text of the order specifically reference political
ends. Were the effects of his order limited to placing Virginia in the
Democrat’s column this November, Governor McAuliffe’s actions
might be overlooked. But, the consequences go well beyond the
outcome of an election.
Previous governors and even President Obama made a distinction
between violent and non-violent felons when restoring political
rights. Governor McAuliffe has cast such distinctions aside, placing
those convicted of serious, violent crimes—including murderers,
rapists and sexual abusers, and even child predators—in the same
category as those who committed property-related or drug offenses.
What percentage of those affected by the order committed violent
crimes? The Governor has estimated the number at 40,000. But since
he has ended all distinctions between violent and non-violent crimes
in restoring rights, he is now asserting that information is irrelevant.
I doubt those who were the victims and families of victims of these
convicted felons would concur with that assessment.
Why, you may ask, is the Governor only estimating the number
of violent felons whose rights have been restored? Well, it appears
his Administration cannot produce accurate records of who has
benefitted from this order. Now, we have learned that individuals
who are still under the supervision of the criminal justice system—
including criminals who are still incarcerated, awaiting trial for other
offenses, or under supervised probation—have been included in the
Governor’s rights restoration order. The Administration’s response
to this bureaucratic incompetence: The Governor’s spokesman said
those who are ineligible should “contact our office immediately.”
The Administration probably should not wait by the phone.
An audit of the list could easily be performed, but the Governor
has refused to release it. The Administration claims the list of felons
whose rights have been restored are “working papers.” This facade
Hugh A. Joyce
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Richmond, VA 23230
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By Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, 3rd Senate District of Virginia