Which Is More Fundamental: the Restoration of Felons’ Rights or the Constitutional Separation of Powers?

mcauliffeby James A. Bacon

Imbued with a sense of righteousness over the loss of voting rights for convicted felons, Governor Terry McAuliffe is unrepentant about his decision to restore those rights to more than 200,000 ex-felons by executive decree.

In a statement released Friday, McAuliffe decried a Virginia Supreme Court decision ruling that blocked his diktat and excoriated Virginia Republicans for wanting “to deny more than 200,000 of their own citizens the right to vote.” Said he: “I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many thousands of men and women who had rejoiced with their families earlier this year when their rights were restored.”

The statement suggested a total blindness of the difference between two things: (a) a worthy policy, and (b) the means by which that worthy policy is to be achieved.

I suspect that most Virginians would agree with McAuliffe’s goal of restoring voting rights to non-violent ex-convicts who have served their terms, although victims of violent crimes might object to the idea that the felons have “paid their debt to society.” Reasonable people can disagree over whether murderers and rapists, as opposed to shop lifters and marijuana smokers, should have their rights restored. Also, as we have seen from the clumsy roll-out of the voting rights restoration, there are numerous questions about how that process should be executed.

In a democratic republic, sorting through these issues is not the governor’s job. It is the legislature’s job. Republicans who sued to block McAuliffe’s move were doing so not to obstruct the struggle for civil and human rights but to uphold the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

“Forty states give citizens who have made mistakes and paid their debt to society a straightforward process for restoring voting rights,” said McAuliffe in his statement. Very impressive. I would suggest that he investigate how those 40 states did so. I’ll wager that the vast majority, if not all, did so by enacting a law.

McAuliffe says he will expedite the process of restoring rights on an individual basis, as provided for under the Virginia Constitution, to the 13,000 felons who tried to register. That’s fine. He is empowered to do that. But if he wants to restore voting rights to all the rest, he’ll have to go about it the old-fashioned way: taking his case to the General Assembly and getting his proposal enacted into law. If the General Assembly is recalcitrant, as it might be, then he needs to get his foes voted out of office. It’s called democracy. And democracy and the rule of law are the foundation for the civil rights about which McAuliffe is so exercised.

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37 responses to “Which Is More Fundamental: the Restoration of Felons’ Rights or the Constitutional Separation of Powers?”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I see the Court, the GOP and others are not familiar with the autopen , eh?

    I predict the next lawsuit will be to say the autopen is not Constitutional either..


  2. Our principle of ‘separation of powers’ is a wonderful thing. It implies that government is constrained by something bigger than mob rule, or the autocrat’s whim. It is an attempt to balance the executive’s necessary authority to act fast and forcefully with limits on arbitrariness, and the need for the wisdom of the crowd when debating and setting long term policy.
    We, like most civilized societies, punish those who commit crimes, and part of that punishment is, we restrict the offenders’ civil rights. We also have processes for restoring those rights. Yes, that’s plural: we have multiple paths to restoration.

    The basic path our legislature has provided is: go back to the authority that took them away in the first place, the courts. Our Virginia Constitution recognizes an alternative path: go to the chief executive, the Governor, for what is, in effect, a partial pardon.

    I don’t see any inconsistency here. The right of the King to grant equitable relief, apart from the remedy of the law, is ancient, well established in our Anglo-American tradition. A pardon is of equity, just as seeking restoration of rights from a court is of the law.
    You see the Executive branch intruding upon the ‘exclusive’ authority of the legislature to establish the consequences of breaking the law. I see the Legislative branch overreaching by trying to restrict unduly the Executive’s equitable ability to undo harm.
    The Supreme Court has wrestled with this, and struck a compromise. Fine. I don’t particularly like the compromise, but there it is. The Governor can restore civil rights but, in Virginia, only case-by-case, not en masse.

    But don’t give me a ‘separation of powers’ argument against the Governor’s authority ab initio, from the beginning. History is against you there.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I agree with your statement of the law but suggest your analysis is a bit dry.

      Another way to parse it might be that political sleazebags damage the rule of law in their corrupt execution of it, turning the law into a raging whore.

      Stated another way, this sleazebag of a Virginia governor is now going about using official acts to wreck the unique insight and profound achievement of the Founding Fathers, namely:

      Pervasive coercion and force had always before 1789 been the only glue that could hold an effective government together. The founders meant to change all that. They believed that for the first time in history they had built a Republic in 1789 that, if successful, would profoundly change the world for the better if only because the only glue that could hold such The American Republic together (one of, by and for the people) was THE VIRTUE OF IT CITIZENs, most particularly its franchised citizens. And they had frame out a system that just might be able to survive the worst of human nature and promote its best angels.

      McAuliffe’s act is the most cynical and destructive imaginable. He disguises himself as a true democrat promoting civil rights to do the exact opposite, so has to steal an election from his own citizens, to promote his own party and crony self interests.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      There is a corollary that allows today’s crop of crony sleazebag politicians to get away with their cynical and destructive acts. That allows them now to so easily disguise their acts that promote only their own selfish private interests as noble acts that will enlarge the civil rights of other folks when, in fact, those official acts of those sleazebag politicians will serve only to enslave those other folks instead and ruin the society that all citizens need to keep and enhance their own lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness.

      Hence, this corollary has opened an ever widening hole in the fabric of the kind of society on which our Republic depends. This is the ever widening void opened in our civil society by the growing ignorance of its own citizens as to their History, the American History, where their country and its government, and its culture, and and its institutions and values, where all of this came from and what all of this history means to our lives, and the lives of our children, and their children’s children.

      Here is Maureen Mullarkey:

      “Just six weeks ago, a Louisiana bill [H.B. 1035] that would require public school children to recite a passage from the Declaration of Independence could not pass. It had to be shelved amid multiple objections from African-Americans, women’s groups, and bureaucrats fearful that the bill would spark lawsuits from aggrieved factions in the race, class, and gender bazaar. The tabling illustrates how imperiled history—the truth of things that serves no current identity group agenda—has become.

      The offending passage, intended to be read by 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, is this:

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

      Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), a major opponent of the bill, asserted that the above statement is false:

      “One thing I do know is, all men are not created equal. . . When I think back in 1776, July the 4th, African-Americans were slaves, and for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think is a little bit unfair to us to ask those children to recite something that’s not the truth.”

      Norton’s hostility to the moral principles of our founding document is a specimen of the danger to our civic life of ignorance in high places. Half-knowledge misrepresents, bypasses, or disdains the facts on which truth about the past is built. Tom Lindsay, former professor of political science and deputy chair of the Endowment for the Humanities, countered with an informed lesson that needs to be recited and remembered. His essay, “Is the Declaration of Independence Based on a Lie?” appeared in Forbes, June 30.”

      It is necessary reading for this Fourth of July. In the words of Valerie Hodges, author of the proposed bill: “The Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone of our republic,” Hodges said. “The American mind is expressed in those documents.” Historical illiteracy will sunder us apart. Read the piece in its entirely here. Below, an excerpt:

      “This is in fact an old charge, which goes like this: “Because America did not ban slavery immediately upon becoming a country, the Declaration’s assertion of human equality could not have been meant to apply to African-Americans.”

      “Perhaps no reading of the Declaration—and of the American soul—could be more fatally in error. If this myth spreads, nothing could be more fatal to the preservation of liberty.”

      ” To see this, consider the historic words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. In his 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech, King observed, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

      “The Reverend King knew something that recent generations of students rarely are taught anymore: First, we do not celebrate the Fourth because it is the day we declared independence from Great Britain. That was accomplished through an act of the Continental Congress two days prior, on July 2nd. Instead, and second, we celebrate July 4th, rather than July 2nd, because the Fourth is the day we adopted the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to Rep. Norton, King understood that the Declaration neither justified nor ignored slavery. It condemned it, providing future Americans, as King attests, the moral compass by which to bring our practices better into line with the principle of human equality, which stands as the moral foundation of the Declaration and thus as the standard by which Americans have judged themselves ever since. . . .”

      ” In his June 1857 speech on the Dred Scott decision, Lincoln explained the conflict between the Declaration’s foundational principle of human equality and the practice of slavery at the time. The Founders, he argued, “did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon.” Instead, the Declaration “meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated. . . . “ He adds, “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, nor for that, but for future use.”

      Here, says Lincoln, is the deepest reason we celebrate July Fourth—and the Reverend King would make history with his “future use” of the Declaration’s promise more than a century later. . . .

      A month prior to Lincoln’s address, famed abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, delivered a magisterial speech on the Dred Scott decision, in which he rejected Taney’s (and Norton’s) view that, because “the Constitution comes down to us from a slaveholding period and a slaveholding people,” we are “bound to suppose” that blacks are “debarred forever from all participation in the benefit of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” Instead, Douglass demonstrates that a “plain reading” of both the Declaration and Constitution shows them to include blacks in “in their beneficent range.” Like Lincoln at the time and the Reverend King afterward, Douglass knew that the Declaration’s principles included rather than excluded the black race. The force of Douglass’s appeal consisted in exhorting white America to live up to its Founding principles.”

      “But today, many in our universities teach the historically and morally ill-founded view that equality can come only through rejecting our racist founding principles. Famed Lincoln analyst, the late Harry V. Jaffa, saw this coming as far back as 1959 …”

      This is not the end of Maureen Mullarkey’ article entitled “A Nation if we can keep it. For more of this enlightening view of what plagues us and our nation today, please go to the balance of her article found at”


      Meanwhile, we see yet another example of the vile fruit of our corrupt institutions of higher learning in this country. How now we reap what those corrupt institutions have sown into our children for many decades. How those institutions, by and large over the years, have depleted our culture and have erased America’s history to build the ignorant and neurotic society that we and our children are forced to live in today. And the foul one that their prodigy will inherent, unless we all somehow come together to erase our collective ignorance and replace it with serious learning about who we and they are, and where we all came from, and what is necessary if w all are to continue as a free people with the institutions and cultures that are capable of improving our world into the future, as our American predecessors have done for us beyond history’s wildest expectations.

    3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      To continue the wisdom of the late Harry V. Jaffa:

      “The late Harry V. Jaffa, saw this coming as far back as 1959. In the introduction to his Crisis of the House Divided, Jaffa observed that then (as today), universities had become “the decisive source of the ruling opinions on our country.” On this basis, he predicted that that the “utopianism and intolerance” taught then (and now) in our universities “would surely spell the end of constitutional democracy.”

      Jaffa has proved prescient. In the course of his critique of the Dred Scott decision, delivered several days before July Fourth, 1857, Lincoln remarked to his audience, “I suppose you will celebrate” the Fourth, “and will even go so far as to read the Declaration.” That line, delivered by a politician in 2016, might draw only laughter. Most Americans stopped reading the Declaration a long time ago. If we were exposed to it in our K-12 education, the odds are that we failed to receive the deeper treatment it deserves in college-level study. According to U.S. Department of Education statistics, roughly two out of every three college students graduate without having taken even one course in American government. Why? Because so few universities today require it, believing, with Norton, that their understanding of justice has evolved beyond the Founders’.

      Lincoln foresaw the disastrous effects that would follow the failure to teach our founding principles to succeeding generations. In an 1838 speech, he saw disregard for the Declaration and Constitution already growing as a result of the passing away of the Founding generation. The only antidote to such degeneration, he argued, was to teach “reverence for the Constitution” in “schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, spelling-books, and in almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.”

      Who can doubt Lincoln’s premise that a self-governing people can maintain its liberties only so long as its citizens practice reverence for the principles that justify self-government? And who can doubt Lincoln, Douglass, and King’s demonstrations that the foundation of these principles is the Declaration’s argument for human equality?

      If we hope to preserve liberty as well as equality, we should take seriously Lincoln’s admonition and restore required study of the Declaration and Constitution at all levels of schooling—not simply in Louisiana, but nationwide. In doing so, we would come again to understand why the Declaration has been looked to by nations across the globe as an inspiration for their own efforts at reform. We would come again to understand why Lincoln declared the nation built on the Declaration’s principles to be “the last, best hope of earth.” We could come again to understand why the future of our democracy depends on properly celebrating the Fourth of July.

      See http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomlindsay/2016/06/30/is-the-declaration-of-independence-based-on-a-lie

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    total partisan horse manure from hypocrites who have had years, decades to right this wrong for the 80+% who are non-violent felons …

    defending these hypocrites ” In a democratic republic, sorting through these issues is not the governor’s job. It is the legislature’s job.”

    these partisan pooper-scoopers in Richmond can’t tie their shoelaces or scratch their sorry fannies these days without making it about politics.

    That’s the kind of “democracy” they have provided … for the 160,000 people who are non-violent …. and deserve restoration of their rights… nope – no can do… and no can the Governor either.

    If these do-nothing dolts had actually done their duty and restored the rights of the non-violent – McAuliffe would have had no support to do what he did and would have been dissuaded from doing it.

    Most other states – their legislatures have done just that, in fact.

    1. “If these do-nothing dolts had actually done their duty and restored the rights of the non-violent – McAuliffe would have had no support to do what he did and would have been dissuaded from doing it.”

      So, as long as McAuliffe can gin up some political support for what he does, he should be able to do whatever he wants? I suppose you think Hugo Chavez and Recep Erdogan are just dandy, then. As long as the cause is just, who needs democracy and the rule of law?

      We’ll see what you say if Donald Trump gets elected and starts ruling through presidential edicts in the style of our current president, only but on steroids, on the grounds that a “do-nothing” Congress won’t enact his agenda.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I think McAuliffe did push the envelope no question but the General Assembly did nothing when they should have – for years and that emboldens executive overreach.

        A compromise was actually attempted – and Mcdonnell and others before him tried to get the GA to restore the non-violent – and they refused to do anything.

        their “win” here is to basically challenge McAuliffe on how many signatures he can make . Where is the Constitutional “no executive edicts” – “virtue” in that?

        This is hypocrisy on steroids.. and par for the course for the GOP fools these days and yes it’s totally ironic that they support someone who would make Obama/McAuliffe look like limp-wrist milk toast.

        congrats – you are among those who created the Va Ga and Mr. Trump, now pray ….

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Precisely right, Jim.

        Time has already shown that Hillary Clinton and Terry McAuliffe, and yes now most likely Donald Trump come from the same corrupt system. I reserve for Trump the “most likely” reservation only because he has yet to do in office what he’s done way too much of in winning the nomination.

    1. Other than attributing the “chaos of all kinds, from legal uncertainty and bureaucratic nightmares” to the court’s decision, as opposed to McAuliffe’s unconstitutional initiative, it’s a pretty sober and balanced account.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Geeee thanks, you patronizing $&@

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Make no mistake here – the Virginia General Assembly does have the power and has for decades – to do exactly what most other states have done – at the legislative level not the executive level and that is restore rights to non-violent felons who have paid their debt to society.

    This is not about Obama or Hillary or Trump or McAuliffe or McDonnell or Kaine before him unless one just has to dwell in LA LA Land instead of dealing with the hard realities.

    there ought not to be a left or right on the basic issue of restoring rights to non-violent felons – in fact, many GOP outside of Virginia totally support it and even in Va – folks like Bob McDonnell do – but not Mr. Howell and his merry band of do-nothing partisans.

    This is about the Virginia General Assembly did NOT do for years under both GOP and Dem governors -an abdication, a failure to govern that invites others who would “rule” …. and would make the current POTUS and Gov of Virginia look like lily-livered, panty- waists.

    Yeah McAuliffe went too far – in a GOOD cause … what explains the GOP in Virginia?

  6. Jim:

    Separation of powers is a great doctrine. What a sham that Virginia doesn’t follow that doctrine in any meaningful way. I am not referring to Terry McAuliffe’s executive order. I am referring to the horrendously over-powered Imperial Clown Show in Richmond, aka The Virginia General Assembly.

    1. You claim McAuliffe should get the legislators voted out of office. That would be a logical point in every other American state except Virginia. The Clown Show’s lust for unfettered power leaves Virginia as the only state where the governor can’t run for a second consecutive term. Our governor is a lame duck the day he or she is sworn into office. The empty suited legislators in Richmond will claim this is to prevent the aggrandizement of power. Quite the lie. It is designed to aggrandize power for the legislature.

    2. Having neutered the executive function the Clown Show moved on to take over the judicial function. Virginia is one of only two states that let the legislature elect the state’s judges with no review board or merit panel. A practicing lawyer in the General Assembly walks into court and sees a judge who knows the legislator will be among the few who decides whether the judge stays on the bench.

    3. Even with a neutering of the executive branch and a hostile takeover of the judicial branch the legislature still musty worry that the electorate might still finally grow angry enough to “throw the bums out”. Therefore, the Clown Show hides in plain sight …

    a) Virginia is one of a very few states to allow unlimited campaign contributions to state politicians. A Clown Show member who has raised a substantial war chest is much harder to oust. This hideously anti-democratic practice is defended by the legislators by citing VPAP and transparency. This is laughable. The amount of contribution bundling, transferring and other means of money laundering renders VPAP useless. This stifles competition. In the 2011 Virginia state elections there were 140 seats up for election. 79 had candidates from only one major party running. More than half the seats were effectively unopposed.

    b) Off year elections. In an effort to keep down voter turn out the GA clings to off year elections. This is compounded by timing the state senate elections for years where there is no gubernatorial contest. Voter turnout in 2015 was 29.1%, in 2011 – 28.61%. Mid term elections average about 40% turnout. The Clown Show’s premise – the less inclined the citizens are to vote the higher percentage of votes thrown by zealots and favor seekers. Politicans are better at controlling zealots and favor seekers that average citizens.

    c) No term limits for the legislature. While Virginia has, by far, the most restrictive term limits on the governor it has no term limits whatsoever on legislators.

    d) Opacity in everything. Virginia’s main regulatory body, the SCC, in not subject to FOIA requests. Its members, as you’d expect, are directly elected by the General Assembly.

    Virginia is on its 7th constitution. It is well past time for #8. The next one needs to neuter the General Assembly and give proper power to the executive and judiciary branches. It also needs to implement the changes needed to end the politician for life approach in the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond.

    1. Most everything you say is true.

      So, the solution is to add another layer of dysfunction and accountability by letting the governor rule through executive order? No, the solution is either to amend the constitution or write another one.

      1. I agree. The Supreme Court made the right decision given the constitution we have. I think we need a new constitution. Virginia is a far different place than it was back in 1971. This incident is a rare intersection of partisanship and good policy. McAuliffe wants more votes for Hillary. If she wins the election and wins Virginia there is probably a plumb for Terry in there. Appoint himself to take Kaine’s Senate slot and then run in 2017 and 2018 with full DNC backing? Secretary of Commerce? An automatic restoration of voting rights for former criminals who have served their sentence would help, at least a little. Meanwhile, restoring voting rights to former inmates is good public policy. McDonnell felt the same way as McAuliffe on this. But our broken constitution does not allow for any override of the General Assembly. Other states have citizen initiated referenda to help keep their legislatures honest and focused on the constituents.

        I have no argument with your article. I just think the separation of powers issue in Virginia is broader than a partisan act that just happened to be good policy.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    How do you amend the Constitution to reform the General Assembly when they have such control and are not inclined to?

    Looking at the imperious way the Va GA operates as well pointed out by Don and making the argument that McAuliffe exceeded his powers is laughable.

    1. Larry, in a democracy governed by the rule of law, we have rules and have to play by the rules. The rules may suck. Indeed, as a market-oriented conservative, I think the system is loaded with outrageous laws and rules that stack the deck in favor of the politically connected over the politically powerless. But you don’t find me arguing that the Virginia governor should pick and choose the laws he obeys.

      Your argument can be used by anyone to dispense of any laws or rules that he finds inconvenient. That’s an invitation either to dictatorship or mob rule. You come across as perfectly OK with a dictatorship as long as the dictator is carrying out policies that you support. But you have to imagine the possibility of a dictator carrying out policies that you abhor. Think Donald Trump.

      If Trump is elected, I shudder to think how he will rule. Congress will oppose most if not all of his policies. I fear that he will respond exactly as President Obama has done, ruling through executive directive, and saying, “Sue me!” (That’s pretty much the way Trump did business.) The left will have no principled justification for opposing him, because the case for rule by executive decree had already been articulated by Barack Obama, Terry McAuliffe and Larry Gross.

      1. In a democracy governed by the rule of law The Imperial Clown Show in Virginia would respect the Virginia Constitution by forming compact and contiguous voting districts as required by the state constitution.

        Instead, they ignore the law.

        The state is being sured over this by Onevirginia2021. Good for them. A judge has ruled that the Imperial Clown Show must turn over some of their e-mails as part of discovery. Four state senators have decided they’d rather be in contempt of court than comply with a valid judicial decision. They are …Senators Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield, George Barker, D-Alexandria, John Edwards, D-Roanoke, and Dave Marsden, D-Burke.

        In a case where the Clown Show is clearly breaking the law 10% of the senate clowns can’t even be bothered with complying with the judge’s decisions. That judge needs to lock them up.

        You have a valid point about McAuliffe but the system worked and his extra-constitutional order was set aside. However, it seems to me that the voting district compactness issue (and related court case) is a far more important example of our state politicians’ utter and total disregard for the laws they are sworn to uphold.

        Virginia is America’s most corrupt state.

        1. I agree with you about redistricting. That’s why I have invited Brian Cannon with OneVirginia2021 to be a contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion. I hope we’ll be hearing more from him on the redistricting issue.

  8. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    If ???? Trump is elected?

    1. I can’t tell if you think that Trump’s election is inevitable or impossible.

  9. Hill City Jim Avatar
    Hill City Jim

    NAIROBI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s half-brother, Malik Obama, says he will vote for Republican nominee Donald Trump in the U.S. election in November because he likes the candidate and he is unhappy with his brother’s leadership.

    Malik, who is in his 50s, told Reuters by phone from Obama’s ancestral home of Kogelo in western Kenya that he supports Trump’s policies, especially his focus on security.

  10. jalbertbowden Avatar

    the legislature cannot even make boundaries that are constitutional, so leaving this up to them is fool’s play. they’ll keep it restricted like they do with gerrymandering, because if they do it then “they won’t be able to get reelected”.
    taking away someone’s voting rights is unconstitutional in itself. violent criminal or not, there is nothing that correlates between a crime and losing your right to participate in society, save perhaps treason.
    the majority of felons are locked up for drug related crimes. the war on drugs is a violation of our privacy rights and has been used to keep certain minority groups at bay in our society. anyone who is against this is simply trying to maintain the power they have right now, or simply doesn’t care about justice and common law.

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Your argument can be used by anyone to dispense of any laws or rules that he finds inconvenient. That’s an invitation either to dictatorship or mob rule. You come across as perfectly OK with a dictatorship as long as the dictator is carrying out policies that you support. But you have to imagine the possibility of a dictator carrying out policies that you abhor. Think Donald Trump.”

    bullfeathers ! The Constitution clearly delegates restoration of rights to the Gov. It’s the GOP who decided that it had to be one at a time – which is not specified in the Constitution. McAuliffe pushed the envelope -yes – but calling that an act of a dictator is comical.

    There are – and have always been – disputes as to where the line is drawn between legislative power and executive power.

    I’m not advocating rule by POTUS or Gov – but what the GOP and you are saying is just partisan foolishness – about legitimate differences of opinion as to how far the power of the executive goes and the legislature stops.

    The ruling was 4-3 – you want to call the 3 a vote for dictatorships? These days, yes – Conservatives would make that point – and advocate for removal of the 3 … no doubt! They’re petrified right now what happens if the Dems get to decide who new judges are. They SO PETRIFIED that they’re willing to put a narcissistic megalomaniac in charge!

    I think if Mr. McAuliffe uses an autopen to sign the pardons one by one – that you guys heads are going to blow off… right?

    because that’s what your argument is – essentially – not that he cannot sign pardons but that he won’t be able to sign 200,000 of them. That’s not exactly a constitutional argument against a dictator…

    1. Your capacity for rationalization is breathtaking.

    2. Given that Virginia is one of only four states where the state constitution permanently disenfranchises convicted felons from ever voting again I have to assume that the people who wrote the constitution in 1971 intended to take a fairly hard line on this. The legislature’s passing of a one at a time law for restoration was probably in line with what the writers of the constitution intended.

      Back in 2009 the General Assembly was on the right track trying to enact legislation that would amend the state constitution and give the General Assembly the power to legislate rules for restoration of rights for convicted felons. It came down to a house vs senate disagreement. The senate voted 27 – 13 in favor of proceeding with the legislation for a constitutional amendment. The house, in their usual display of courage, relegated the matter to committee with a voice vote where it died. The House of Delegates (aka Heroes of the Commonwealth) killed the bill into committee by voice vote again in 2011 and 2013. Gutless wonders.

      As a side note, the Virginia Senate in 2009 was 21 Democrats, 19 Republicans. The 27 – 13 vote in the Senate was far from “along party lines”.

      One interesting aspect pf the 2009 votes was the fact that some in the General Assembly thought the Virginia constitution prevented the GA from legislating any rules regarding the restoration of voting rights for felons who have served their time. Regardless of intent, the actual words of the Virginia Constitution seem to support the 2009 theory. “No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.”

      Typical of most things in Virginia the wording is vague and sloppy. Is the GA an example of an “other appropriate authority”?

      The real battle here is not automatic restoration of rights but restoration of rights without application. As I understand it, 13,000 of the possible 200,000 former felons have applied to have their voting rights restored. 6.5%. Not exactly emblematic of a group of people pining away to regain their right to vote. I can see how McAuliffe can sign the 13,000 applications he already has. Can he sign the next 187,000 without the person applying?

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    my rationalization? hahahahhh – the GOP argument on Constitutionality is that essentially that McAuliffe can only pardon one at a time and that they’re banking that he can’t physically do that and their moral high ground has been to deny the vote to people they’re pretty sure would vote against them!

    I’d say the GOP Va Ga takes the cake on tendencies towards a corrupt dictatorship just as Don has pointed out.

    You say rule-of-law – surely you must be blushing when you assert the Va GA is that arbiter.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Not exactly emblematic of a group of people pining away to regain their right to vote. I can see how McAuliffe can sign the 13,000 applications he already has. Can he sign the next 187,000 without the person applying?”

    how about this – you give them that application the day they leave prison and sign out… and see how many don’t. I bet the numbers change.

    Virginia has a history of denying votes to people – why should we continue that?

    1. I’d be all for that. Is there any reason Gov McAuliffe can’t order the Virginia Department of Corrections to do just that? I wonder why he can’t have some of the people who provide social services in prison sit down with the inmate two weeks before he or she is released and help them complete the form.

      The real problem is that McAuliffe has two goals here:

      1. Like McDonnell he wants the restoration of civil rights to happen more often, more quickly and more automatically

      2. He wants more votes in Virginia for Hillary

      How many felons will be released, complete the form, secure restoration and actually vote between now and the election?

      As I said before – this is the unusual case where partisan politics align with good public policy. However, once the partisan political benefit is almost entirely diluted the good public policy will take a back seat. I’d like to be proven wrong about Gov McAuliffe on this but I doubt I will be proven wrong.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        I suspect your comment touches the heart of the issue. Any right minded citizen should welcome the rightful return of any felon to the status of a full participant in society. The question is when and how that should occur.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          you need decades to figure that out? yep.

          the folks that truly support restoration of non-violent felons rights – say so – even if they disagree with McAuliffe.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            How’s that smug serf-righious black and white feeling doing for ya, huh Larry?

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” 2. He wants more votes in Virginia for Hillary”

    that’s a bunch of partisan foolishness… I can’t believe people are such dolts on this – left and right.

    first – anyone on the left who thinks just because someone is a felon that they’d automatically vote Democratic because they are basically liberal is living in a dream world…

    second – those on the right – why do you do what you do – to make enemies of entire classes of people and then fear them at election time?

    Major principled GOP in Virginia, other states and Nationally did NOT see this as a partisan threat to them. They see it as the right thing to do – the principles that the country stands for -to do right to people and that’s totally separate from how they might vote or hold their own philosophy.

    News this morning: “Game On”

    ” McAuliffe vowed to use an autopen to sign the orders, sidestepping a recent court ruling that invalidated the step he took in April to restore the rights of about 200,000 felons en masse.”

    as I predicted – the GOP is headed back to court – to challenge the “Constitutionality’ of the autopen…

    they take this tortured path rather than themselves restoring rights to non-violent felons.. it’s pitiful…

    this typifies the sad state of those who choose to obstruct and obfuscate and have no actions or solutions or their own – other than to obstruct.

    1. Why is life so hard for you Larry. Oh, I forgot – you live in the Liberal Reality Distortion Zone ….


      That took about 45 seconds to find. And please don’t bleat about the Washington Examiner unless you can discredit the underlying study from the U Penn / Stanford professors. Discounting academic studies based on the reporting entity is just more of the Liberal Reality Dustirtion Zone.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Don – even if this is true – and yes I doubt the Examiner – seen too much agenda-based propaganda and disinformation from them on a variety of issues…

        Don – don’t Google search for something that confirms your own biases fella – if you REALLY want the TRUTH, Check more than one source. In fact look for sources that actually contradict your own biases… just to make sure you’re not just foolishly sucking up made-to-order propaganda for the gullible – which pubs like the Examiner specialize in.

        but EVEN IF TRUE -how do you say it’s ok to deny people the right to vote?

        Are the ‘overwhelming majority of violent criminals’ Democrats? Ted Cruz said so

        ” Research cited by the Cruz campaign supports the claim that, in at least three states, felons released from prison go on to register as Democrats at a disproportionately high rate following their release.

        However, there are important caveats. The study in question looked at both violent and nonviolent felons without separating out those two groups. It’s not clear whether the patterns holds in the other 47 states. Also, the study didn’t look at active “criminals” but rather those who had already served their time. Finally, it’s hard to draw a line between cause and effect, particularly given the disproportionately high population of African-Americans — a traditionally Democratic group — in the criminal justice system.

        We rate his statement Mostly False.”


        but – you’d deny the vote to people who differ from you philosophically?

        How corrupt is that?

        the only “liberal distortion” here is gullible support of a corrupt philosophy to deny vote to people you’d disagree with philosophically.

        I guess that explains the same people also working to make it harder to vote for blacks and Hispanics?

        then they complain that those groups vote against them?

        Wise Up Don…

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” serf-righious” … now that’s a new phrase if I ever heard one!

    but HEY – this issue is precisely NOT black & white – that’s the heck of it.

    there are lots of middle-ground compromises and have been – for decades. Find a way to say yes to something rather than no to everything.

    black and white is when you hide from taking any action at all – period – for decades… and for what ?

    there is no virtue in claiming to support restoration of rights then refuse to do ANYTHING – for decades – and now claim it’s because one fears how they’d vote once they got their rights back?

    Note that Mr. McDonnell for whatever faults and ethical issues he may have had – he did not blink on the principle – regardless of how they might vote.

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