Attorney General and assumed Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli may be a populist conservative politician, but that doesn’t mean he’s predictable. Who ever would have imagined him fighting to restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons?
A House subcommittee voted down this morning proposed constitutional amendments that would provide for the automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who had served their full sentences and paid all fines and fees. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Cuccinelli’s part, who testified in support of the legislation.
Whoah, what’s that all about? Aren’t Tea Party Republicans like Cuccinelli supposed to be into African-American voter suppression? What’s going on here? Why is he trying to expand the franchise?
Some will attempt to divine a crass political motive behind Cuccinelli’s stance. He knows he’ll bleed a lot of moderate Republicans so he’s got to make up their votes somewhere else. He thinks he can skim off some cultural conservatives in the African-American community, perhaps, and restoring voter rights for non-violent felons will burnish his bona fides in the black community. That sort of thing…
Yeah, maybe. Or we could just take his words at face value:
I have long railed against politicians ratcheting up several low-level, nonviolent offenses from misdemeanors to felonies — what I call ‘felony creep.’ Many lower-level offenses should not result in the permanent loss of civil rights for individuals. That’s why we ought to make it easier for those who have committed certain nonviolent offenses and served their punishment to regain their place in society. I am in favor of setting out in the code a list of selected nonviolent felonies for which restoration of rights would be available.
Maybe Cuccinelli just thinks it’s wrong to deprive minor felons of voting rights. After all, as he noted in his press release, in November 2012, he issued two opinions strengthening the governor’s power to restore civil rights to former felons — the right to serve as a juror and the right to seek political office.
Cuccinelli is a man of principle. You may not like his principles but he sticks to them. He does not stake out positions based on political expediency. He’s also unpredictable. He does not conform to liberal-bogeyman stereotypes. It’s going to be an interesting year ahead.