Yes, Democrats Have Tried To Rig Elections

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association
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A lot of attention has been paid to the Republican National Lawyers Association’s agreement with Mr. Trump’s statement that Democrats have tried to “rig” elections. One of the examples that has generated the most controversy is the listing of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Executive Order earlier this year overturning 186 years of precedent in Virginia to allow 206,000 convicted felons to vote – attempted election rigging that was recently struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court.  

The undisputed background is important. All agree that Governor McAuliffe is a close friend and staunch ally of Democrat Presidential Candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton. He was a DNC Chair under Bill Clinton. He is term limited as Virginia Governor to just one term. While Democrats would undoubtedly put this differently, there is merit to the statement of Virginia General Assembly Leader Bill Howell that “[t]he singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States. This office has always been a steppingstone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s Cabinet.”

No one disputes that felons overwhelmingly vote Democrat and that Virginia is a purple state where elections will likely be decided by a thin margin in 2016. The beneficiary of McAuliffe’s order is Hillary Clinton.  

Further, even the staunch advocates of felon voting should have been, and were, given pause by the scope of Governor McAuliffe’s order. These advocates state that “once a person has paid their debt to society, their rights should be restored.”McAuliffe’s order included murderers, gang members still in prison, and others, such as sex offenders, still under involuntary supervision. McAuliffe’s order had the goal of getting the maximum number of voters available for Hillary, not the goal of felon rights advocates to “restore the rights of those who have paid their debt to society.”

The trouble did not end there. Unlike more principled felon restoration efforts, McAuliffe’s effort included over 40,000 violent felons in Virginia. Keep in mind in Virginia, most voting takes place on school grounds. While some on the far left may be in favor of convicted murderers, rapists, sex offenders, and other violent felons being allowed to vote on school grounds during school hours with students present, even most advocates on this issue would be given pause.   

In addition to restoring voting rights, McAuliffe’s order allowed these violent convicted felons to sit on juries, run for public office, and serve as a notary public. It is for reasons such as these that a bipartisan group of 43 commonwealth attorneys opposed Governor McAuliffe’s order.

Yet another sign of McAuliffe rigging the system was the way this order was made. He made this order two days after the Virginia General Assembly adjourned and in time for the 2016 Presidential election. “Considering that the entire General Assembly was in session just two days ago, the timing of this action should give all legislators pause. Perhaps this governor does not expect to have to work with the General Assembly next session, as he might be planning on an appointment to an office headquartered in a different capital city.” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr.

Even the strongest ally of Secretary Clinton, her Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, rejected such a blanket felon restoration order while he was Governor of Virginia. While current allies of the order have tried to play the race card, arguing the Virginia constitutional provisions the order violated are a Jim Crow law passed by racist Democrats of a bygone era, Polifact has pointed out this is false. The constitutional provisions were passed in 1830 to stop white male felons from voting.  

This is not a case of all felons never having the ability to vote again. Virginia allows for a case-by-case restoration of felon rights.

Rather, this was a case of an effort of a Governor to issue an overly broad, unconstitutional, and unprecedented Executive Order to help his political ally. Or put another way, an effort by a former DNC Chair and best friend of Secretary Clinton to “rig” the 2016 President election for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.