Voting Rights Restored Again for 13,000 Ex-Felons in Virginia

Republicans have accused McAuliffe of trying to add more Democrats to the voting rolls to aid Hillary Clinton in November

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has again restored the voting rights of about 13,000 ex-felons after his previous attempt was blocked by the state's Supreme Court.

McAuliffe's announcement Monday came nearly a month after the court ruled that governors cannot restore rights en masse, but must handle them on a case-by-case basis. That ruling invalidated a previous executive order that had restored the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons who had completed their sentences.

The roughly 13,000 people are those who had registered to vote before their rights were stripped away last month. McAuliffe said his administration processed each ex-felon's paperwork individually to comply with the ruling.

Republicans have accused McAuliffe of trying to add more Democrats to the voting rolls to aid presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November.

But McAuliffe said the new plan is fair. 

"We have established a logical approach moving forward," McAuliffe said. "It is consistent with the court's decision and keeping with the practices of the past Virginia governors for the restoration of rights. We are using criteria that are objective, fair and uniform to review eligibility."

Alexandria resident Robert McNeil, an ex-felon, has never voted. He said he was thrilled when McAuliffe personally handed him an order, saying he would be able to cast his ballot. He asked about early voting right away.

"And then the rug got pulled from under me," McNeil said.

He received a letter informing him that his voter registration had been canceled.

On Monday, he watched his mailbox to see if his voting rights would be restored again.

McNeil's friend, Marine veteran Harold Hughes, lost the right to vote shortly before the 2008 election. He, too, was hoping to receive a letter saying he can vote again.

"Once you've done your time and you've paid your fines, and they put you back into society, you should be a part of society with all the rights that are given to society," he said.

The new process for reviewing whether ex-felons should be able to vote gives priority to those who request restoration or have been free from court supervision the longest.

Those who criticized the governor's original restoration plan see problems with the new plan as well.

Loudoun Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman said he has seen the list of ex-felons who will receive the right to vote and said he believes some of the people have not paid their full debt to society.

"I have one defendant that owes nearly $100,000 in victim restitution but is on unsupervised probation, and so clearly has not paid her debt back, and she's getting her rights back ahead of the game," he said.

McNeil, who watched his mailbox for news on whether he could vote, received his answer Monday.

His voting rights were restored again.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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