In a ruling that could affect which way Virginia swings in the 2016 presidential election, the state supreme court Friday struck down Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s move to restore voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons, The Hill first reported.
The seven-judge court ruled 4-3 in favor of Virginia Republicans who sued McAuliffe one month ago claiming his executive action went outside of his office’s powers.
“The unprecedented scope, magnitude, and categorical nature of Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order” exceeded his authority, wrote Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons in the ruling.
“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. To be sure, no Governor of this Commonwealth, until now, has even suggested that such a power exists. And the only Governors who have seriously considered the question concluded that no such power exists,” Lemons stated.
The GOP also claimed McAuliffe’s move would tip the scales disproportionately in state elections for Democrats.
The state constitution, the court said, mandates that the governor must tell the state legislature every time clemency is granted. The court ordered Virginia election officials to void the registration of the 11,000 convicted felons who became registered to vote following McAuliffe’s executive order.
However, Gov. McAuliffe plans to ignore the court’s order saying in a statement issued Friday:
“It is a disgrace that the Republican leadership of Virginia would file a lawsuit to deny more than 200,000 of their own citizens the right to vote,” He added later,”I will expeditiously sign nearly 13,000 individual orders to restore the fundamental rights of the citizens who have had their rights restored and registered to vote. And I will continue to sign orders until I have completed restoration for all 200,000 Virginians.”