Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order yesterday that restored the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons. The order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who served their sentence. Virginia is one of a minority of states, only ten, that do not automatically restore rights upon completion of a felony sentence and one of only four that require an application by each individual felon and action by the governor. Because this is an executive order, McAuliffe will have to reissue it every month.
McAuliffe, who is the political equivilent of Prof. Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” issued the predictable triumphal blather, saying from the Virginia Capitol steps after being introduced by a gospel choir,
“We benefit from a more just and accountable government when we put trust in all of our citizens to choose their leaders.It has taken Virginia many centuries, unfortunately, to learn this lesson. But today, we celebrate its truth.”
We get a more just and accountable government when we put trust in those who have proven themselves untrustworthy, eh?
That’s one of McAuliffe’s talents: he can make a measure that isn’t necessarily unethical at all seem like it.
Is it unethical to tell felons that they are banned from voting and running for office for life? It’s a policy choice, that’s all. A state can make lifetime disenfranchisement part of the official price for serious lawbreaking on the theory that felons have shown themselves to be insufficiently respectful of the laws and society in general, and lowered themselves into the ranks of permanent second class citizens by their own choices and conduct. I won’t say that’s not fair: it depends what one thinks fair is. It’s tough. It signals a high regard for the rights to participate in self-government.
Is it unethical to change that rule? Should convicted murderers, rapists and thieves serve on juries, hold public office and be eligible to notarize documents, once they have paid their debt to society? The fact that disenfranchisement is defensible doesn’t mean that reasonable arguments can’t be made that it is excessive. For some felonies, it might be excessive. Felons already have a permanent punishment, because the convictions follow them around, interfering with their ability to be trusted, for life. THAT is fair. Losing the right to vote might be one penalty too many, keeping a black sheep who wants to be a contributing part of the flock isolated and alienated.
On its face, then, McAuliffe’s order isn’t necessarily ethical or unethical, neither removing an injustice nor eliminating an essential principle.
His motives are something else. McAuliffe said his move was aimed largely at rectifying Virginia’s “long and sad history” of suppressing African-American voting power. Of course, the state took away the right of convicted felons to vote long before African Americans became a disproportionate components of the group: how can someone assert that a law that was put in place without any thought of its effects on African-Americans was part of a pattern of suppressing black voting power?
This is the logically and ethically flawed “disperate impact” argument again. If African Americans and whites know that being convicted of a felony loses them the right to vote, then it is the choice to break the laws that lose that right, and if anyone is suppressing their vote, it is the lawbreakers, not Virginia. If McAuliffe really means that he would have no problem with a lifetime voting ban for felons if they were all white (or white Republicans, which is what he may well have in mind), that’s 1) biased 2) incompetent 3) irresponsible but 4) completely in keeping with the logic and race-tilted ideology of current Democrats.
Several Democratic-aligned organizing groups were in the crowd for the governor’s announcement, registering some attendees on the spot. Please recall that McAuliffe was a long-time Clinton fundraiser and loyal henchman. Virginia Speaker of the House William J. Howell, said the order was a transparent political maneuver to boost the Democratic voting rolls in a closely contested state before the 2016 election.
“The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States,” he said. “This office has always been a stepping-stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s Cabinet.”
That statement’s not entirely unfair either.
I find myself wondering, however, how much benefit Hillary or the Democrats will get out of those grateful 206,000 ex-felons. I find it difficult to believe they are more civic-minded than law-abiding citizens, so at least 50% of them won’t vote. I also find myself wondering why it is that Democrats assume that they are the favored party of felons, including murderers, rapists and thieves, and what conclusions we should derive from that, if true.
Facts: Richmond Times-Dispatch
29 thoughts on “Virginia’s Governor Restores The Vote To Felons”
“desperate impact” heh, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere
Oops. What is commonly but incorrectly called “a Freudian slip.” Fixed it.
I think that McAulifee stands for everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party: Pandering to black voters, a very cozy and mutually beneficial relationship with the Clintons, and a self serving autobiography. I think that he should spend some time on the yard with the felons he plans to make more responsible citizens alone without a big entourage of cronies accompanying him and see if restoring their voting rights is such a great idea. Perhaps, he could talk to some victims of these criminals and listen to what they have to say.
It would have been nice if the Va. GOP had run someone against him who wasn’t even worse, and whose fanaticism made McAuliffe’s old fashioned corrupt cronyism look refreshingly normal. I detest McA, but I voted for him, because if I voted for Cuccinelli, I would have had to kill myself.
Cuccinelli won the youth vote, in a race where McDonnell was hanging around his neck like an albatross.
I wasn’t familiar with the would be senator but I actually like some of the positions he took and had I lived in Virginia, I probably would have voted for him.
Not quite everything.
Felons who have served their time are neither more nor less likely to vote than any other voter, so it is safe to predict that less than a third of them (closer to maybe 10%?) will actually vote. Since felons are, by definition, ex-convicts, and prison populations are some of the most conservative populations around, it would seem that the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot. The left one, of course.
Another thought just occurred to me. Is it possible that the Democrats are convinced that the felons are going to be so grateful for having this right restored that they are going to become life-long Democrats in return? Have they ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?
I bet Terry McAuliffe’s office has given the names and addresses of all 206,000 of the new voters to the appropriate local Democratic Party offices all over the state. Those offices will do their best to make sure all the felons have a ride to the polls and probably a lunch or at least a cup of coffee. McAullife is among the worst of the long-time Clintonistas.
I’ve been thinking along the same lines.
It’s too bad (not really) that the Democrats aren’t. I’m thinking that this worked so well with the black population, they are assuming it will work with the felons as well.
My guess is that if ex felons were to vote in this election, they would most likely vote for Trump.
Sadly, Beth, I think you are absolutely right. If for no other reason than that our prisons do not qualify as institutes of higher learning.
That’s the best argument not to restore the voting rights that I’ve heard yet…
“I also find myself wondering why it is that Democrats assume that they are the favored party of felons, including murderers, rapists and thieves, and what conclusions we should derive from that, if true.”
No kidding. Rich, isn’t it?
Which Democrats made that assumption?
Any of them in leadership positions?
Terry McAuliffe? And every other Democratic party operative spouting the “over-incarceration” line.
Is there a quote from Terry McAuliffe claiming that the Democratic Party is the party of felons, rapists, and thieves?
Wasn’t the statement enough? (I’m at least half-joking…)
Maybe most of Virginia’s felons are locked away for storing classified materials on personal computers and would have a very sympathetic reaction to a Hillary candidacy…
So he is saying that all black people are crooks?
Seems to think so. An article I read said a substantial majority of the felons were black. Probably the Washington Post where I first ran across this story.
From the Richmond article: “Several Democratic-aligned organizing groups were in the crowd for Friday’s announcement, registering some attendees on the spot.” “Clinton praised the move on Twitter, saying: “Proud of my friend (Terry McAuliffe) for continuing to break down barriers to voting.” “Not long after President Abraham Lincoln celebrated emancipation with former slaves gathered not 20 yards from where I’m standing, Virginia initiated a campaign of intimidation, of corruption, of violence aimed at separating African-Americans from their constitutional right to vote,” McAuliffe said.”
More from the article:
Levar Stoney, a Richmond mayoral candidate who worked with McAuliffe to restore rights for 18,000 ex-offenders as secretary of the commonwealth, read a quote from then-legislator Carter Glass about the voting plan adopted at the 1902 convention.
“This plan will eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this state in less than five years, so that in no single county will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government,” Stoney said as he introduced the governor. Public service, he said, is about “giving voice to the voiceless and righting the wrongs.”
Ironically, I guess everyone in Virginia is in agreement that all felons in the state are black, from a recent Richmond mayoral candidate to a hideous racist from 1902 to the current governor.
And no black person is offended by this?
Evidently not. That’s part of being a member of the Obama coalition.
What!!! A governor phoning it in so he can get a position in Hillary’s cabinet? Unthinkable!!!
Only ten states in the union restrict felons from getting their voting rights back after they have completed their sentences , parole and or probation. And even in those states you can apply to have them reinstated . Before 2014 it was impossible for any felon to get his rights back in Virginia , then it became possible for non violent offenders to apply and violent offenders to apply after five years.
Should he have lifted it on all of them? I don’t know , but what I do know that is that if you expect for convicted felons to reintegrate in to society and become productive citizens then allowing them to vote is a step in that process. You can not simultaneously tell someone to get a job, work hard, be a productive members of society and at the same time put permanent barricades in their way to keep them from doing so,
One of my neighbors is a convicted violent felon. When he heard that he would be allowed to vote again he broke down and cried because he felt that he was finally a member of society again. He was convicted 30 years ago and ended his probation 25 years ago. Ever since then all he has done is work hard, keep his nose clean and not violate any laws. Before 2014 it was impossible for him to get his voting rights back if this new order allows this man to vote then I’m all for it because all he wants to be is a productive member of society.