McAuliffe: Supreme Court Can’t Stop Restoration of Felon’s Voting Rights

McAuliffe pledges to issue 206,000 felons right to vote individually if he has to

Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe / AP

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D., Va.) does not care whether or not the Virginia Supreme Court reverses his executive order that restored voting rights for 206,000 felons because he plans to circumvent the judicial branch if he has to.

The court granted a request made by Republicans to expedite their lawsuit against McAuliffe, which argues that the governor did not have the right to restore rights to the large group in a single executive order. Rights were previously restored in a case-by-case manner, after felons individually petitioned the state and penned a letter to the governor explaining why they deserved to not only have the right to vote, but also have rights such as the ability to serve on a jury or run for office.

McAuliffe said during a Wednesday morning interview with WTOP that it does not matter what the court's ruling is.

"Lets assume hypothetically that the state Supreme Court knocks it down," said McAuliffe. "The next day I will sit at my desk—probably with the assistance of my autopen—and I will sign 206,000 orders."

"They will have their rights back that day," he said. "This is much ado about nothing."

McAuliffe also said that his side will prevail in court, and that the case will "not even be a close call."

The lawsuit was filed by a group of Republicans led by Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell. Matthew Moran, a spokesman for Howell, said that if McAuliffe goes around the court he will likely regret it.

"The governor will be accountable for every single order he signs," Moran told the Washington Free Beacon. "He won't be able to cover up his mistakes as clerical errors and he will have to explain to Virginians why convicted murderers should serve on juries and child predators should be able to run for school board."

McAuliffe's order has been called "haphazard" by election officials who have had trouble dealing with the list of newly eligible voters. Included on the list were several violent felons who remain in prison and a group of "sexually violent predators" who are still being supervised by the state.

McAuliffe acknowledged the mistakes in the interview when asked why it wasn't properly vetted.

"It was a big list, a massive data list," said McAuliffe. "When you do big changes in life, you're going to have complications."

McAuliffe said "nobody has had their rights restored mistakenly."

He also said it would be a felony for any of the felons who had their rights restored by accident to actually vote, suggesting that those who had already proven their willingness to commit a felony would be unlikely to commit another felony just to vote.

"If you are on a list by accident and you vote, that's a felony," said McAuliffe. "There is nobody who is going to do that."

Howell has stated that he is "confident" that his lawsuit "will prevail" when the Supreme Court takes it up on July 19.