Virginia GOP to sue governor over convicted felons voting

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Republicans in Virginia plan to file a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe for extending voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons.

“Gov. McAuliffe’s flagrant disregard for the Constitution of Virginia and the rule of law must not go unchecked,” Virginia Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment said in a statement, according to Time.

{mosads}Republicans fear McAuliffe’s executive order will benefit Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, according to Time. Virginia is a crucial battleground state in the presidential race and was won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Norment said his predecessors and previous attorneys general in Virginia have concluded that McAuliffe does not have the authority to issue blanket restorations of voting rights.

Virginia Republicans have hired attorney Charles J. Cooper, Time added, but have not said when they would file the lawsuit. Cooper served as an assistant attorney general under former President Reagan, even arguing cases before the Supreme Court.

The Virginia GOP does not plan on using taxpayer dollars for their legal challenge.

An aide to McAuliffe defended the governor’s order as being within his constitutional authority. 

“While Republicans may have found a Washington lawyer for their political lawsuit, they still have yet to articulate any specific constitutional objections to the Governor exercising a power that Article V Section 12 clearly grants him,” said Brian Coy, McAuliffe’s communications director.

“These Virginians are qualified to vote and they deserve a voice, not more partisan schemes to disenfranchise them.”

McAuliffe issued an executive order late last month restoring voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons who had served both their prison and parole terms. He said that Virginia’s former provision — a Civil War-era rule — disproportionately targeted African-Americans.

“There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” he said on April 22.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R), who mounted a failed bid for president this year, criticized McAuliffe’s decision in an op-ed published on Saturday.

“McAuliffe’s blanket executive order abuses the power of his office and is in contravention of the judgment of the Virginia legislature,” he wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “This is an infamy upon the criminal justice system in Virginia.”

McAuliffe is a longtime ally of Clinton and served as chairman of her White House run during the 2008 race.

– This story was updated at 2:17 p.m.

Tags felons GOP Hillary Clinton Republicans Virginia voting rights
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