mcauliffeby James A. Bacon

A persuasive moral case can be made to restore the civil rights of former felons. Once a man has served his time and repaid his debt to society, he should be allowed to participate fully in that society.

As Governor Terry McAuliffe stated Friday in announcing his restoration of civil rights to 206,000 Virginians:

If we are going to build a stronger and more equal Virginia, we must break down barriers to participation in civic life for people who return to society seeking a second chance. We must welcome them back and offer the opportunity to build a better life by taking an active role in our democracy. I believe it is time to cast off Virginia’s troubling history of injustice and embrace an honest, clean process for restoring the rights of these men and women.

Former Governor Bob McDonnell thought much the same thing. In 2013, he proposed a series of bills meant to fast-track the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons. The bill died in committee, but McDonnell recognized what governors like Tim Kaine had acknowledged before him: that the United States is a nation of laws and he did not have the authority to rewrite the law as he pleased.

Perhaps anticipating difficulty in convincing the Republican-dominated General Assembly to pass the law he wanted, McAuliffe has borrowed from the Barack Obama playbook — rewrite the law by executive decree.

Not surprisingly, his sweeping action is being negatively received. ” I am stunned at his broad and unprecedented view of executive power, which directly contradicts how past Governors have interpreted their clemency powers,” said House Speaker William J. Howell, “and I am stunned at his willingness to restore the rights of the most heinous criminals without batting an eye.” He continued:

There are significant constitutional and legal questions regarding the Governor’s authority to take such drastic action.  No Governor in the history of Virginia has accepted such a sweeping view of executive power.  A.E. Dick Howard notes in his commentaries that Governors have considered the “restoration of civil disabilities on an individual basis.”  The Supreme Court has acknowledged the Governor’s authority on the restoration of rights, but only in the context of requests made by individuals.  The Court does not appear to have ever contemplated the view taken by the Governor.  Most recently, in 2010, counsel to Governor Tim Kaine said ‘a blanket order restoring the voting rights of everyone would be a rewrite of the law rather than a contemplated use of the executive clemency powers.’

We’re not talking about technicalities here. An important policy question is whether restoration should extend to all felons regardless of their crimes, such as murder, rape, child rape, and kidnapping. Any policy, suggested Howell, “should take into account the nature of the crimes committed, whether they have paid back their victims and the court system, and their willingness to serve as productive members of society.”

Another question is how to implement the law. Writing to the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia in 2010, Mark Rubin, counselor to Kaine, warned of several practical problems that McAuliffe will be sure to encounter as he tries to implement his edict:

Neither the information about voting registration concerning whether a felon has completed his sentence are completely available in centralized state records as they are in other states you cited as models. For example, information about whether a felon has complied with court orders including the payment of restitution to the crime victim or whether the individual has successfully met the terms of probation or parole supervision is only available in local court records. Without having this information available in centralized data bases, a blanket restoration of rights for those who have completed their sentences would place an unprecedented burden on local registrars to determine whether a felon is actually qualified to register. It could also lead to significant confusion in the election process with disputes about an individual’s voting status. The risk of undermining the integrity of the election process is not one the Governor is willing to take as he leaves office.

Kaine said individual felons should be encouraged to petition to have their rights restored, and the law should be changed to see to it that lifelong voting disenfranchisement is not an automatic consequence of felony conviction. But the governor could not unilaterally change the law himself. “The Governor,” wrote Rubin, “will be glad to continue to work … to ultimately persuade the General Assembly that this distinction is one to erase.”

Remarkably, in his announcement Friday, McAuliffe provided no legal justification whatsoever for his action — not even a fig leaf of a justification — nor did he refer to any bills he failed to get bills through the legislature as justification for conducting an end run around the General Assembly. His action looks like a raw power grab times designed to infuriate Republicans and mobilize the African-American vote in November.

Bacon’s bottom line: I defended McAuliffe when legislators tried to pack the GoVirginia board with their own appointees, an unjustified legislative intrusion into executive authority. (See, “Here, Piggy, Piggy!”) Now it’s time to call McAuliffe on the reverse — an usurpation of legislative power. I’m not sure what happens from here. Presumably, lawsuits will be filed. Perhaps the General Assembly will take some official action. One way or the other, McAuliffe needs to be reigned in.

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34 responses to “Rule by Edict Comes to Virginia”

  1. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    Looks like one way to get the Legislature to both talk and act!

  2. So they can pass pointless legislation for a non-over-rideable veto?

    How’s that a solution?

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    If McAuliffe had submitted legislation – would he have gotten a vote or would it have died in committee without a vote?

    ” Former Governor Bob McDonnell thought much the same thing. In 2013, he proposed a series of bills meant to fast-track the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons. The bill died in committee,”

    So if you are McAuliffe – who has proven he is a strategic thinker – what would you do – especially if you believed the General Assembly could not muster enough votes to override?

    When legislatures become obstacles – it encourages actions to overcome them.

    So the Va GA has options. One of them is to pass legislation rather than bottle it up in committee… and if they actually pursue a true bi-partisan compromise -they would end up with enough votes to rebut any veto from the Gov.

    Not so hard .. how about a little less whining and partisan vitriol and a little more real legislative action?

    Give McAuliffe credit – he’s actually trying to do something positive. If the GOP wants to re-work it to their liking – have at it.

  4. On Sunday morn TV, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Gov McAuliffe about the move. I felt the Gov was too defensive and combative before Stephanopoulos even got started on the interview. Should have been friendly territory for the Gov. One too many coffees maybe.

  5. Larry, the legislature has spoken- no change to the current law. You may not like the end result, but the fact remains that by failing to pass any new legislation on the subject means that the current law remains the law of the land. The law is what the law is, and until it is changed by a positive act of the Legislature, it remains the law in the State of Virginia.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    @JNL – I cannot really argue with you on your logic but then the Gov also has the ability to act also and on this particular issue – does the GA actually represent with fidelity what many including the former Gov thought needed to change?

    The Gov does have the right to restore rights on an individual basis – and if need be – he could do it one by one… so doesn’t he have that right, in fact? By all means he should test it and others should challenge it but I give the govt credit for doing SOMETHING rather than the feckless behavior of the GA on this – and other issues that deserve – at least a full vote on the floor.

    The duty of an legislature is to address the problems that need to be addressed – that’s it’s duty – to represent citizens – not to substitute it’s own beliefs and philosophies. Clearly, people who have paid their debt to society deserve to regain their rights; there is no virtuous reason to deny in my view.

    In fact, I have always advocated that Virginian’s have the right to initiate referenda as a check and balance against a recalcitrant and indifferent legislature and/or Gov that fail to actually represent the sentiments of voters because in Virginia we have and have had – what amounts to a system that presumes the legislature knows what is best for Virginians rather than actually represent them – i.e. the Virginia Way -an anachronistic remnant of it’s aristocratic “crown” roots.

    I’d set referenda at a high bar – 2/3 or 3/4 of voters – so that the measure of voter sentiment is real and substantial and a clear counter to those in Richmond who think they are in charge.

    If 2/3 of Virginians think felons deserve to have their voting rights restored – and the legislature fails to even act to take a vote so that voters can hold them accountable for those votes – then we have a problem.

    We need a political and legislative “make over” in Virginia to force elected to actually have to take votes rather than bury them in committee and for citizens to be able to essentially force the votes via referenda.

    not mob rule by any means – but also not imperious rule – by legislature nor the Gov.

  7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    And why can’t a Governor issue a proclamation that states all recent immigrants can avoid paying state income taxes for five years to give themselves a leg up? Why can’t a Governor issue a proclamation that states military veterans can vote twice in an election? Why can’t a Governor issue a proclamation that abolishes the General Assembly or extends the Governor’s term to 20 years? As I recall, Oliver Cromwell abolished Parliament by edict in 1653.

    Or what if the next Governor issues a proclamation that avoids the current judicial process and gives felons who have served their terms the right to own and transfer firearms? That would stand on equal ground to McAuliffe.

    And killing legislation is a legitimate function. For example, both Senators Warner and Kaine (like their predecessors) work vigorously to kill any legislation that would expand the number of flights from Reagan National Airport because of constituent concerns about airplane noise. Most of us who live within 10 miles of the Potomac River applaud their efforts in this area. Frankly, we don’t even want the bills to get to a committee vote. Why is this different?

    Even with the General Assembly, I’ve written to my legislators (both Democrats and Republicans) urging them to do anything they can to kill legislation. For example, Kaine’s final budget that proposed a freeze in the LCI that, if enacted, would have cost Fairfax County Schools about $60 M. Between McDonnell and the GA, Kaine’s proposal died. Not every proposal needs a recorded vote.

    Moreover, McAuliffe’s action negated substantive provisions. The Code prohibits restoration of a felon’s voting rights when that person has been twice convicted of certain violent felonies; certain serious drug felonies, including manufacture or sale of narcotics; and election fraud when it is a felony. Why does one man get to decide to ignore these restrictions beyond his goal of delivering Virginia to Hillary Clinton in the election?

    What is done by edict can be undone by edict. And lawless action by one Governor (or President) encourages more lawless action.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      co-equal – branches of govt with checks and balances.


      The General Assembly has the power to pass legislation dictating what rights convicted felons can have or not and which ones the Governor has discretion over.

      The Governor – cannot break the law – but if the GA does not make law then if the Governor violating a law?

      I’m all for the GA passing legislation and being on the record for their votes.

      But the trick is – they actually have to pass the legislation and have the votes to sustain a veto and be accountable to voters.

      I’m all for that. I’m all for one man – one vote governance and opposed to dark money and cowardly elected who hide who they are.

      And I’m all for justice for those discriminated against and illegally convicted getting their day also.

      I’m all for voters forcing their elected to publicly vote issues – and to be held accountable by voters for those actions.

      we all should. Get rid of secret money and secret votes and let those who say they want to represent voters – actually represent them and not their own personal beliefs or party agendas.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Larry, there is already a statute that states which convicted felons who have completed their sentences can obtain restoration of their voting rights and which cannot. See section 53.1-231.2 of the Virginia Code.

        This section was passed in 2000. The bill was introduced by Delegate Jerrauld C. Jones and passed the House by a vote of 87-12 and the Senate by 40-0. Governor Gilmore signed the bill, and it became law. Minor amendments were adopted by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Warner in 2003.

        Your post said” The General Assembly has the power to pass legislation dictating what rights convicted felons can have or not and which ones the Governor has discretion over.

        “The Governor – cannot break the law – but if the GA does not make law then if the Governor violating a law?

        “I’m all for the GA passing legislation and being on the record for their votes.

        “But the trick is – they actually have to pass the legislation and have the votes to sustain a veto and be accountable to voters.”

        I submit that everything you demand occurred in 2000 and 2003. A bill was passed by recorded votes and signed by the then Governor. So they actually passed a law – a law that McAuliffe has ignored. So now tell me why it’s OK to do this.

  8. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear All,

    And let us be clear as to why Governor McAuliffe is taking this blatantly illegal action: Since Blacks commit a proportionately higher amount of crime than Whites, but overwhelmingly vote Democratic, it is an effort to sway elections towards Democrats, just as the illegal actions taken by the President in 2014, the Executive Amnesty, does the same, only predominantly using Hispanic illegal immigrants. These actions are about retaining power, all law be damned.



    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Pity, direct, and on target per usual.

  9. JOHN BR Avatar

    If McCauliffe had provided that his decree would take effect on January 1, 2017 (after his hoped-for Hillary election), one might believe that he did this in an honest attempt to restore rights to those who have paid their debt to society. I agree that such people should have the right to vote.
    But being done in this manner, it is an obvious attempt to pad the voter roles for Hillary and pander to her constituency at the same time.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    Geeze – he’s only doing what McDonnell tried to do … and he chose to try a different way than McDonnell because McDonnell failed. Had McDonnell and the GA done the right thing to start with – this would be a NON issue! This is typical of the GOP these days. They do nothing -then holler when someone else does it.

    Are we saying that the GA turned down McDonnell because they feared restoring voting rights to felons was tantamount to creating more Dem voters?

    you guys are downright comical about this.

    you’re paranoid about anything that might increase Dem voters?

    good lord!

    Now we know why we can’t redistrict, or have voting on Saturdays or eveneings or mail in , etc? right?

    In other words – it’s all about doing whatever can be done to discourage increased voting because it’s presumed to be for Dems?

    wow! so much for supporting Democracy! all this talk about “edicts” is really about paranoia about Dem voting? OUCH!!

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    Here’s part of the answer if one is truly interested in legitimate transparent and accountable governance:

    OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting

    President Reagan supported reform.

    Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Governor Doug Wilder (D) support reform:

    Governor McAuliffe (D) and the Bi-Partisan Ethics Commission support reform.

    those of us who want a legitimate process – are willing to abide by the vote – even when we lose..honest Injun –

    I’d rather lose on the merits than win on a secret corrupt process vote.

    what none of us ought to abide is a corrupt system based on the paranoid fears of those who are afraid they’ll end up on the losing side – a perversion because some folks are afraid to be in the minority – afraid to lose.

    And once you’ve gone that way – corrupt politicians know they can go further and ignore voters more and more – so the folks who are paranoid are helping to create the corrupt system we have right now.

    We need to get rid of gerrymandering and dark money in politics and to hold legislators accountable who evade their basic responsibilities of transparency to voters in their actions.

    Some things – perhaps most – should not come out of committee to go on to wider votes – but each one that does not go forward – ought to have a recorded vote and the elected representative on record a to their actions – in representing voters.

    Then we’d know – when legislation is sponsored to allow citizens to initiate referenda – who opposed it. Right now, such legislation never gets a vote it just dies in committee.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Great article Peter! thanks!

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    here’s McAuliffe’s view:

    ” The Governor’s Authority to Restore Rights: Article V, Section 12 grants the power to the Governor to grant various forms of Executive Clemency, including the power to

    (1) remit fines and penalties;
    (2) grant reprieves and pardons;
    (3) remove political disabilities from convictions;
    (4) commute capital punishment.

    The text of the provision contains only three limitations on these powers. First, remittances of fines and penalties are subject to rules and regulations the General Assembly can pass.

    Second, reprieves and pardons are allowed only after conviction.

    And third, the Governor cannot pardon a conviction of impeachment.

    By the plain text of the provision, the Governor has absolute
    discretion to grant his clemency powers to any person or group of people for whatever reason the Governor sees fit.

    So the Gov is writing this and referencing the part of the Va Constitution that he says gives him this authority.

    and by my reckoning – no judge could read that and deduce from the words in the Constitution – limitations in additions to those articulated ; the Judge would have to substitute his/her own view of whether it meant limitations beyond what is in the text.

    so the opponents are basically counting on a Judge – reading into the text – things that are not in the text – i.e. substituting their view for McAuliffe’s

    I’m no lawyer and I do not play one but there are several lawyers that do frequent this blog and I’d be curious to have them explain how any judge would add more limitations…

    we always hear about activists judges “writing law” beyond the literal text so maybe we’ll see some of that – an irony – given what Conservatives claim these days about interpreting the literal text, eh?

    So this is not going to go away quickly – and the only question is whether or not the opponents can get an injunction.

    stay tuned.

    I think the same thing is going to happen with Obama and Immigration for that matter, because the govt lacks the resources to deport everyone and he does have the discretion to prioritize on who he will go after – and who he cannot afford to. In other words – he has the authority to allocate and prioritize funding if he does not have enough to process each illegal. This would be like saying that local police must expend whatever it takes to arrest every single speeder when clearly there are not enough resources to do that – so they do what amounts to random stops and prioritized stops for the most egregious offenses.

    The SCOTUS ruling is going to say he MUST take action on every illegal -within the constraints of available resources… and that’s going to be the end of it – and back to square one.

    this current behavior of the right – is not very productive .. it basically is legal action to sustain their gridlock.

  13. You can read the Virginia Constitution as well as I can. It says — at :

    “Section 12. Executive clemency.

    “The Governor shall have power to remit fines and penalties under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law; to grant reprieves and pardons after conviction except when the prosecution has been carried on by the House of Delegates; to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction for offenses committed prior or subsequent to the adoption of this Constitution; and to commute capital punishment.

    “He shall communicate to the General Assembly, at each regular session, particulars of every case of fine or penalty remitted, of reprieve or pardon granted, and of punishment commuted, with his reasons for remitting, granting, or commuting the same.”

    FWIW, I think McAuliffe has got a strong argument that this section, particularly the italicized portion above, is a sufficient grant of executive authority to the Governor for him to do exactly as he has done. Jim’s talk about intrusion upon the legislative prerogative is just that: so much talk; this is an explicit grant to the executive branch.

    TMT has it right that there is an explicit statute on this subject that McAuliffe has ignored. But he has the right to ignore it! The Constitution trumps any statute passed by the GA, unless the Constitution itself makes the grant of executive authority subject to the GA’s laws and regulations etc. There is such a provision with respect to remitting fines and penalties, but not with respect to “remov[ing] political disabilities consequent upon conviction.” Indeed, the second paragraph, with respect to reporting to the GA “the particulars of every case” after-the-fact, doesn’t seem to apply to “removing political disabilities” either.

    I know everyone is comparing President Obama’s “rule by edict” on immigration with this action, but they are NOT the same. There is nothing in the US Constitution about the President’s right selectively to fail to enforce a law enacted by Congress; indeed such a right would allow the President to gut at will any law passed by Congress. In contrast, there is an explicit provision in the Virginia constitution about the Governor’s right to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction. It says he CAN do so, without GA limitation.

    I agree with Mark Rubin’s comment that this edict will impose a significant burden on local voter registrars, but that’s a detail, albeit an important one.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Acbar – McAuliffe’s position was contradicted by two other Governors – Gilmore in 2000 when he signed the bill creating regulations for who could apply for restoration of voting rights into law, and by Warner in 2003 when he signed a bill making minor changes into law. Clearly, if they believed they had unfettered authority, why would they have signed the bills? In a weak governor state like Virginia, I’ve noticed most Governors have been pretty protective of their powers.

      And if McAuliffe thought the statute in question was unconstitutional because it burdened constitutional authority, why not file an action in court to have it declared unconstitutional? McAuliffe doesn’t give a rat’s ___ about the law or the state constitution, much less rehabilitation of former felons. He’s proven the only thing he cares about is delivering votes for Hillary. On this one, he’s operating at the same level as the Post’s editorial board – a leftist result always justifies the means.

      1. I just read the statute, §53.1-231.2, and, placed alongside the Constitutional provision, I don’t see that they overlap at all, but rather create separate paths to the restoration of voting rights (see my response to LarryG below). It seems to me these separate paths to restoration serve different purposes: the Circuit Court route is to satisfy the ordinary felon who’s done his time and to take the Governor out of the loop of reviewing and deciding these cases; provided, the statute allows the Governor, in effect, to negate the Court’s action within the 90 day window provided for gubernatorial review. The Governor’s clemency route under the Constitution nevertheless remains available to any convicted felon whose petition to the Circuit Court was denied, or who was prohibited from petitioning the Court by the terms of the statute, or whose voting rights the Governor wishes to restore without the felon even asking the Court (as is the case here). I’m not defending the policy choices here, I’m just reading what the statute and the Constitution say.

        As for WHY McAuliffe is doing this, of course, it’s politics, and I don’t like it, any more than I like Hillary, or The Donald for that matter. What a GodAwful Choice! But first, let’s acknowledge that the VA Constitution allows the Gov to do what he’s doing, even if we don’t like it. I think it’s going to be especially important to understand what constitutions do AND DON’T allow, over these next four years!

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          If the state constitution gives the Governor explicit authority to restore voting rights, why isn’t §53.1-231.2 unconstitutional for interfering with the Governor’s express authority? Don’t get me wrong Acbar, I think you are making good arguments. But I don’t agree with the conclusion.

          Assuming the Governor’s power is unlimited, why would anyone go through the statutory course that is limited. For example, if I am convicted of felony voter fraud, the statute says I cannot have my rights restored. But if I go to the Governor, I can. That doesn’t make sense.

          If the Governor’s authority is absolute, then there should be no statutes addressing any function related to his/her unfettered power. If the Governor’s power is not unfettered, it must be exercised within the boundaries of the statute. In other words, McAuliffe cannot restore voting rights to anyone disqualified by §53.1-231.2 unless he has complete discretion by the terms of the constitution.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Also, take a look at § 53.1-230 of the Code. It sets forth some procedures for the Governor’s commutation of death sentences. If the power is unfettered, why was it included in the Code of 1950? Why did subsequent Governors sign bills amending the statute?

      1. § 53.1-230 is an interesting provision. It states (in full): “In any case in which the Governor shall exercise the power conferred on him to commute capital punishment, he may issue his order to the Director, who shall receive and confine the person whose punishment is commuted according to such order. To carry into effect any commutation of punishment, the Governor may issue his warrant directed to any proper officer, and the same shall be obeyed and executed.”

        I take this statute to be the GA’s way of filling the gap between the Governor’s commuting a scheduled execution, and the necessity for, then, putting the criminal away in prison to fulfill whatever’s left of the sentence after the Governor’s action. It doesn’t conflict with the Governor’s authority but does help implement it.

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    For those who care what other states have done:

    50-State Comparison – Loss and Restoration of Civil Rights & Firearm Privileges

    you’ll find what McAuliffe has done is pretty common – almost a norm so that makes me wonder what the point of the GOP complaint is… and it sounds pretty partisan – once again.

    This sounds like McAuliffe is not going to be bullied… but instead stick to his guns because he KNOWs many other states – including GOP states have done this already.

    1. I took a look at your comparison chart and, sorry to say, it is simply inaccurate for Virginia (and therefore suspect for other States). There are two paths to restoration of voting rights in Virginia: through the Governor’s executive action, or through the local Circuit Court. We discussed the first path earlier. As TMT noted, there is a provision in the VA Code which establishes the second path: §53.1-231.2 – Restoration of the civil right to be eligible to register to vote to certain persons. To paraphrase, this allows a person convicted of certain non-violent crimes, with certain further restrictions, to petition the Court to have his voting rights restored. If the Court says yes, the Governor must be notified, and after 90 days the Court’s action becomes effective automatically unless the Governor says no in the meanwhile. This provision is not even mentioned in the chart you referenced. By the way, now that I have read this statute, the limitations upon this second path to restoration of voting rights (e.g., no violent crime) do not even purport to limit the Governor’s executive authority under the Constitution (and a statute could not limit a Constitutional grant of authority anyway).

  15. One other thing: Larry, you say, “I think the same thing [this is not going away quickly] is going to happen with Obama and Immigration for that matter, because the govt lacks the resources to deport everyone and [Obama] does have the discretion to prioritize on who he will go after – and who he cannot afford to. In other words – he has the authority to allocate and prioritize funding if he does not have enough to process each illegal.” No! There is a difference here between (1) reasonably attempting to carry out the immigration laws within the limits of available resources by prioritizing who will be deported, and (2) declaring publicly in advance that entire categories of potential deportees under the law are exempted from enforcement and those folks can stop worrying about the threat of deportation. Whatever your sympathies or political leanings, I think it’s clear that the first is proper execution of the law, and the second is re-writing the law. If you want the President to have the power to re-write the law, then admit that’s what you’ll have if Obama has his way and be prepared to live with the same under The Donald or Hillary; Obama’s immigration order is not proper execution of Congress’ law by any stretch of “executive discretion.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      @Acbar – so announcing your intentions about how you will prioritize and allocate your resources is “re-writing law”?


      so “not proper execution” is an objective determination of following the law or not?

      oh come on… you’re not serious are you?

  16. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Larry,

    All right, assuming you are correct, and I remain somewhat doubtful, does this said “power” of the Virginia Governor include the ability of a successor to countermand this Incumbent’s decree, and return felons back to being unable to vote?



    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      According to the Constitution – it’s the discretion of the Gov – yes.

      and succeeding Gov could write their own rules.

      … unless or until – the GA writes actual law that changes such discretionary powers.

      and from that point – whether challenges to such law are adjudicated by the Judicial branch.

      The legislative branch can’t write law either – unless it has a veto-proof majority.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Larry, if the Governor has full discretion under the constitution, the GA cannot change his discretionary authority. If the Governor does not have unfettered authority, the GA can limit his discretion, such as by providing a ban on the restoration of voting rights for anyone convicted of felony voting fraud. And it has, IMHO. I appreciate arguments to the contrary.

  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    “… Constitutional scholar A.E. Dick Howard, who presided over the most recent rewrite of the Virginia Constitution 45 years ago, said McAuliffe has broad discretion in restoring civil rights, and has now ended one of the last remaining legacies of an earlier constitutional convention that was “committed to white supremacy.”

    “The last ghost of the 1902 convention was buried today,” Howard said.”

    I’ll take A.E. Dick Howard’s view any day over TMT’s.. 😉

  18. LarrytheG Avatar

    “… Scott, an attorney and civil liberties expert, argues the governor is correcting a suppression effort that goes back 115 years.

    “The right to vote is a right. It’s not a privilege. You have Republicans who at every opportunity are trying to deny people the right to vote,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

    He noted Virginia’s ban on felons voting originated in the early 1900s as part of a package of new state laws designed to suppress blacks. Those restrictions, including the now-banned literacy tests and poll taxes, at the time had forced the removal of 85 percent of black voters from the rolls.
    Virginia remains one of four states that strip voting rights from felons for life after their convictions. ”

    Much more clear what this is really about now that others have weighed in.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      If you look at Art. III, sec. 1 of the state constitution printed in the Code of 1887, the following were not eligible to vote: 1) idiots and lunatics; 2) persons convicted of bribery in public elections, embezzlement of public funds, treason, felony or petty larceny; and 3) anyone involved in a duel. Of course, women and those under 21 were also disqualified from voting.

      I cannot find info on the Senate, but with the exception of 1881-83, when the Readjusters controlled the House, the Democrats ran the House since 1869 until 2000.

  19. LarrytheG Avatar

    Given the apparent historical racial lineage and intent of this practice – it appears defending retention of it today is tantamount to supporting the original intent of the practice.

    A.E. Dick Howard – not exactly considered a Constitutional activist much less a radical , minced no words: ” …..has now ended one of the last remaining legacies of an earlier constitutional convention that was “committed to white supremacy.”

    “The last ghost of the 1902 convention was buried today,”

    Yet the Va GOP as well as supporters had no problem mis-characterizing this as the Gov exceeding his powers ( getting rid of what boils down to a disgusting vestige of past practices with racial intent). Why would ANY current day GA legislator or even ANY Va citizens – NOT ALSO want to shed Va of such an abhorrent practice?

    Now I actually wonder if the folks who have claimed this is an overreach of the Gov – actually ALSO KNOW of the apparent intent of the original practice and are engaging also in dog-whistle style politics since they actually say this is about giving more votes to the Dems……

    Don’t let anyone tell you that we live in a post-racial society… anyone who says that or believes it are either willfully ignorant or clueless of Virginia’s racial history.

    Anyone who KNOWS our history and rather than support removing these vestiges jumps on the partisan political bandwagon – oh well.. what’s new? There is a good reason why I have little respect for most of the GOP in Virginia these days.

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