VA Supreme Court Strikes Down McAuliffe's Blanket Restoration of Felon Voting Rights

Today, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down Gov. Terry McAuliffe's order that restored voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons.  The court found it was unconstitutional because it re-wrote the Virginia Constitution:

In a 4-3 decision, the Court said it “respectfully disagrees” with Mr. McAuliffe’s position that he has the executive power to make such a sweeping move. . . . The court ordered the cancellation of registration of all voters convicted of a felony who registered under the governor’s executive orders by Aug. 25. 

Chief Justice Donald Lemons issued the majority opinion, which said that Mr. McAuliffe’s executive orders had revised a section of the state constitution. 

The ruling said Mr. McAuliffe lacked the power to issue a clemency order “to a class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request.” 

Justice Lemons cited Virginia’s tradition of “cautious and incremental approach to any expansions of the executive power,” writing that the framers in 1776 were skeptical of “the unfettered exercise of executive power.”

We applaud the Virginia Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law in Virginia.