Virginia Republicans sued Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday in an attempt to block his executive order, which would restore the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons in the state.
The state’s GOP lawmakers charged that McAuliffe’s order violated the Virginia constitution, arguing that the law makes clear the governor can solely grant clemency on an individual basis.
"Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order defies the plain text of the Constitution, flouts the separation of powers, and has no precedent in the annals of Virginia history," House Speaker William Howe said in a statement.
The lawsuit was filed in the Virginia Supreme Court and asked justices to strike down the order. It also demanded that the state annul all convict voter registrations received since McAuliffe issued the order last month.
McAuliffe’s order would reinstate voting rights to 206,000 violent and nonviolent felons who have finished their prison sentences in Virginia, including those who have not yet applied for a restoration of rights.
The unprecedented action would also allow felons in Virginia to sit on a jury, serve in elected office, or become a notary.
Republicans contend that the change would significantly boost Democratic clout in the state, which could significantly impact the presidential election in November.
Virginia is only one of 10 states that does not automatically reinstate voting rights for convicts after they complete a prison sentence.
McAuliffe in April said the order was "morally the right thing to do" and told Republicans to "quit complaining."