Somebody needs to go back to law school in the state of Virginia when it comes to the issue of restoring voting rights for ex-felons.
On one side, you have civil rights advocates at the NAACP and the Advancement Project insisting the governor of the state can, by executive order, restore voting rights for people convicted of felonies after they serve their prison sentences.
On the other side, you have Virginia’s past two governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and current Gov. Republican Robert McDonnell, maintaining the state constitution restricts them from issuing an executive order to allow the state’s 325,000 ex-felons to vote.
One side is right, the other side is wrong. Now all we need is someone to make the call.
This week, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor, weighed in on the controversy by releasing a panel finding that agreed with Kaine and McDonnell that the constitution restricts the governor from restoring ex-felons voting rights by executive order.
Under current law, ex-felons have to appeal directly to the governor to have their voting rights restored. It is a process many ex-felons have deemed as overly time-consuming and unwieldy.
In my eye, it comes down to politics.
The politics in play are that Virginia is a very conservative state outside of its northern Washington, D.C., suburbs, so the issue of restoring voting rights to people who have committed serious crimes doesn’t play well to much of the electorate.
Here is some proof: Of the 13 bills on felon rights restoration proposed in this year’s General Assembly — most dealing with a constitutional amendment on the issue — only one made it out of committee…and it died in the state House.
And outside of the civil rights advocate community, you didn’t hear much about the death of the issue to restore ex-felon voting.
It makes perfect sense that any governor, Republican or Democrat, wouldn’t be in any great rush to restore voting rights to ex-felons from a political stance.
But if you are looking past politics at what is right and what is wrong, maybe someone should step in and answer once and for all whether the governor has the power to issue an executive order to give ex-felons the vote.
Isn’t that what courts are set up to do?
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