Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.) invoked the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln on Sunday while defending his executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons.
On ABC's This Week, McAuliffe told George Stephanopoulos that he had campaigned on such a move and no one should be surprised.
"We have had some very horrible disenfranchisement of voters in Virginia," McAuliffe said. "And I stood right in front of that Capitol, where we had a poll tax, literacy tests, disenfranchisement of voters. I stood not 20 yards from where Abraham Lincoln met the freed slaves 151 years ago in April. It was the right thing to do legally, and most importantly, George, it wasn't politics. It was the right thing to do morally."
McAuliffe, who chaired Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and is a longtime ally of the family, has been accused of making the move to give an advantage to the Democrats, given the likely political leanings of those who have been newly enfranchised.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday restoring the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons, a sweeping action the governor said was aimed largely at rectifying Virginia’s "long and sad history" of suppressing African-American voting power.
The move, coming in a presidential election year, outraged Republicans who accused McAuliffe of abusing his power to help longtime ally Hillary Clinton win a battleground state by putting more likely Democratic voters on the books.
The governor’s order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who had finished their sentence and supervised release as of Friday, even those who have not applied for a restoration of rights. Previous Virginia governors have restored rights on an individual basis, but none has done it for an entire category of offenders with one pen stroke.
The interview was a reunion of sorts. Stephanopoulos also has extensive Clinton connections, having served as Bill Clinton's White House communications director.