Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe promised Friday to use an executive order to restore voting rights to felons, an announcement that leaves the Republican-dominated legislature – some of whom have opposed an overturn to the Civil War-era prohibition – in the cold.
As the New York Times reported: “The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole to register to vote.”
By the numbers, more than 200,000 felons could see their voting rights restored – most of whom are blacks, the newspaper reported.
“There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans – we should remedy it,” McAuliffe said, the New York Times reported. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can.”
McAuliffe said he couldn’t guarantee how many would ultimately register to vote, but that he would do his best to get them all in the political game.
“My message is going to be that I have now done my part,” he said.
Only Maine and Vermont allow felons unfettered access to the ballots boxes. Most states ban them from participating in the election process until after they’ve completed their probation and parole.
Virginia has one of the harshest climates for felons who wish to win back their voting rights, and according to Sentencing Project figures, roughly one-fifth of blacks in the state can’t vote because of their criminal backgrounds.
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, commended McAuliffe.
“This will be the single most significant action on disenfranchisement that we’ve ever seen from a governor,” he said, the Washington Post reported. “And it’s noteworthy that it’s coming in the middle of this term, not the day before he leaves office. So there may be some political heat, but clearly he’s willing to take that on, which is quite admirable.”
In 2010, various media reported how comedian and “Saturday Night Live” fixture Al Franken successfully moved into the political world and won a seat in the U.S. Senate for Minnesota on the backs of felon votes.
In a July 2010 piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Felons for Franken,” writer John Fund said: “Did illegal felon voters determine the outcome of the critical 2008 Minnesota Senate election? The day after the election, GOP Senator Norm Coleman had a 725 vote lead, but a series of recounts over the next six months reversed that result and gave Democrat Al Franken a 312 vote victory. The outcome wound up having a significant impact, giving Democrats the critical 60th Senate vote they needed to block GOP filibusters.”
Shortly after Franken won, the group Minnesota Majority scrutinized voting records and compared them to criminal records and found “at least 341 convicted felons voted in Minneapolis’s Hennepin County, the state’s largest, and another 52 voted illegally in St. Paul’s Ramsey County, the state’s second largest,” the Wall Street Journal said.
In 2014, meanwhile, a widely reported study revealed most felons vote Democrat. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science discovered in some states, like New York, 60 percent or so of felons are registered Democrats.
“Democrats would benefit from additional ex-felon participation” in elections, the Washington Examiner reported, citing the study.