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Virginia Gov. McAuliffe to Restore Rights to 200K Felons

Terry McAuliffe
Terry McAuliffe / AP
• April 22, 2016 11:57 am

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, will sign an order Friday restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons in the state.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the unprecedented move will also allow felons living in Virginia to sit on a jury, serve in elected office, or become a notary. The order will effectively restore the civil rights of both nonviolent and violent felons who have served their time in prison and completed parole.

According to the McAuliffe administration, the move will affect roughly 206,000 felons currently living in Virginia who have finished their prison sentences but not applied for a restoration of their rights. Most of those who will be affected are black.

"There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans–we should remedy it," McAuliffe said Thursday ahead of the announcement, according to the New York Times. "We should do it as soon as we possibly can."

The move will likely boost Democrats’ chances of winning Virginia, a crucial swing state, in the November election. Hillary Clinton, to whom McAuliffe is a longtime ally, is likely to be the Democratic nominee for president.

The Times-Dispatch obtained a confidential draft of research for the order, which stated, "Under the Constitution of Virginia, the governor has the authority to ‘remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction’ for felonies."

"Using this authority, the governor has issued an order restoring civil rights to a large number of Virginians currently disenfranchised for a felony conviction," the research document stated.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, do not restrict the voting of felons.