Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called his executive order that extends voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons “morally the right thing to do.”
“They’re back in the community. They’ve served their debts to society. Why do we want people to continue to be second-class citizens?” McAuliffe said in an interview with radio show host John Catsimatidis that aired Sunday.
Last month, McAuliffe issued the order that reverses Civil War-era provisions in Virginia’s Constitution.
It only applies to convicted felons who have served their prison time and finished any parole.
He said prohibiting felons from voting in the state mostly disenfranchises African-Americans.
Maine and Vermont are the only two states without voting restrictions on felons. Virginia, Kentucky, Florida and Iowa are among the states that impose the harshest restrictions.
Virginia will be a battleground state in the upcoming presidential election. The state has trended toward Democrats in recent years, with President Obama winning it in 2008 and 2012.
McAuliffe is a longtime ally of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and served as chairman of her campaign in 2008.