Virginia Governor to Restore Voting Rights to Thousands of Convicted Felons

April 22nd 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is set to restore the voting rights for more than 200,000 convicted felons on Friday, the New York Times reports.

The move, carried out through an executive action, sidesteps the state's Republican-led legislature, and targets a Constitutional provision dating back to the Civil War. McAuliffe said it disenfranchised the state's Black voters.

"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 on Thursday. "We should do it as soon as we possibly can."

The order, which will allow all felons in Virginia who have completed their prison terms and parole time to register to vote, comes at a crucial time: a presidential election year in which Virginia, a swing state, could help sway the vote in November.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, do not impose voting restrictions for felons. According to the Sentencing Project, Virginia is one of four states that levies the most stringent voting restrictions on felons. On Friday, McAuliffe said the move would damper that distinction and allow for a more democratic process, according to his Twitter account.

According to The Times, however, the move could be viewed by critics as a political strategy given McAuliffe's close ties to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, and her tendency to attract minority voters.

[h/t The New York Times]

Update: 4/22 11:25 a.m. PST: This story was updated to clarify that only two states still impose no voting restrictions on felons. The story originally implied that Virginia would be joining those states.