As anger grows in conservative camps over Virginia’s just-announced open door to 206,000 felons to vote in the looming presidential election, Gov. Terry McAuliffe – a longtime Hillary Clinton friend – took to national television to defend his executive order and tell his Republican opponents: Quit crying about it.
“I would tell the Republicans [to] quit complaining and go out and earn these folks’ right to vote for you,” he said, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos, on “This Week” on ABC News, Politico reported. “Go out and talk to them. … I think some of the language that has come out of the Republicans, I would tell them to be very careful at how they frame this, very careful of their rhetoric.”
McAuliffe announced his executive order Friday, restoring in one swoop the voting rights for 206,000 convicted felons, including those who served time for violent crimes, like rape and murder. He painted his action as a civil justice issue to give blacks, who’ve been disenfranchised from the voting process because of past crimes, a fair voice during elections – but as the Richmond Times pointed, McAuliffe’s executive order came two days after the General Assembly broke from regular session, meaning, he could have taken the legislative route to bring about the reform.
“Considering that the entire General Assembly was in session just two days ago, the timing of this action should give all legislators pause,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr, in the Richmond Times. “Perhaps this governor does not expect to have to work with the General Assembly next session, as he might be planning on an appointment to an office headquartered in a different capital city.”
And Speaker of the House William Howell blasted McAuliffe’s order as little more than a political ploy aimed at helping Clinton reach the White House.
“The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect HIllary Clinton president of the United States,” he said, the Richmond Times reported. “This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s Cabinet.”
Howell also said, Breitbart reported: “Instead of adopting a clear policy that can be applied equitably, [McAuliffe] is changing the rules in the middle of the 2016 election to ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory.”
McAuliffe, born in New York, fought off the label of carpetbagger during his first run for governor in Virginia in 2009. He lost in the primary but tried again, successfully, in 2013.
His background includes service as chairman of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, during which he forged a friendship that soon after stretched to include Hillary Clinton. He then served as a fundraiser and national co-chairman of Clinton’s reelection campaign, and following as chairman for Hillary Clinton’s first run at the White House. In 2000, McAuliffe also served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and served in that capacity for five years, a position he maintained until 2005.
His executive order to restore voting rights to 206,000 felons could have dramatic impact on the presidential election, as WND previously reported. And Hillary Clinton recognized that potential impact, via a Twitter post: “Proud of my friend (Terry McAuliffe) for continuing to break down barriers to voting.”
But some see a legal challenge in the works. Radio chatter from Virginia on Monday revealed a Republican hope that McAuliffe’s order might be scaled back via a lawsuit. And Dick Howard, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, said that while it appeared McAuliffe had “ample authority” to give the vote back to felons in the state, his action was most likely due for challenge in court, the New York Times reported. On what grounds?
“The most likely argument, he said, is that the governor cannot restore voting rights to an entire class of people all at once,” the New York Times wrote.
Meanwhile, writers with the National Review took a more aggressive stance, slamming McAuliffe for “following the example set by President Obama,” that being, “if you don’t like a law or a constitutional limit on your authority, just ignore it. Rewrite, change or bend it.”
Authors Roger Clegg and Hans Von Spakovsky, both of whom tout backgrounds in law, also called McAuliffe’s maneuver “likely an unconstitutional state action” that was seemingly driven purely by political motives – to “ensure the purple state of Virginia goes blue” during November’s presidential election.
“As was completely predictable, McAuliffe played the race card on Friday, saying he was rectifying Virginia’s ‘long and sad history’ of suppressing African-American voting power,” they wrote. “This is a bogus and demagogic claim about a policy that applies equally to all felons regardless of race and that was established when black Virginians couldn’t even vote. … It is estimated that McAuliffe’s action will add 3.8 percent to the 5.4 million registered voters in Virginia.”
And their conclusion?
“McAuliffe’s willingness to do anything (and to say anything) to achieve partisan political goals shows a complete contempt for the rule of law and for the constitutional republic that is the United States,” they wrote.
McAuliffe, in the hours after signing his order, denied he was acting on a political agenda, or to bolster Clinton’s presidential run.
His order, while restoring voting and other rights for felons, leaves untouched prohibitions on firearms.
A statement from the governor’s office reads, Breitbart posted: “Each of those Virginians will immediately regain the right to register to vote, to run for office, to serve on a jury and to serve as a notary public … The governor implemented his action by signing an order restoring the rights of every Virginia felon who completed his or her sentence and all other requirements as of April 22.”