Virginia Governor gives 206,000 felons the right to vote, flouting state constitution’s intent

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Democratic “Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia will use his executive power on Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, circumventing his Republican-run legislature. The action will overturn a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution,” reported the New York Times earlier today. “The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole to register to vote. Most are African-Americans, a core constituency of Democrats, Mr. McAuliffe’s political party.” Even murderers and rapists are now allowed to vote.

Where do governors get the power to “overturn” a “provision in the state’s Constitution,” as the New York Times puts it? Governors take an oath to uphold the state constitution, not overturn it. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, “The Constitution of Virginia has prohibited felons from voting since the Civil War . . . Previous governors have said that they thought a wholesale restoration of rights would require a change to the Virginia Constitution.”

This looks like an obvious attempt to change the result of close elections in a key swing state by changing the electorate itself (felons vote lopsidedly for the Democrats).

Do we really need violent felons, perjurers, and thieves serving on juries? And voting on ballot initiatives in Virginia that make law? Is lawmaking a function to be performed by law breakers? Or by law-abiding people?

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