Governor McAuliffe announced last Friday that he is immediately restoring the civil rights of 206,000 convicted felons, including violent felony offenders. Civil rights include the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office and serve as a notary public.
I believe that when convicted felons have completed their sentence and paid their debt to society, they deserve the opportunity to demonstrate they once again deserve their civil rights. However, there should be a clear and consistent delineated policy that applies fairly and equitably. That policy should take into account the nature of the crimes committed, whether they have paid back their victims and the court system, and their willingness to serve as productive members of society.
The Governor's policy applies to violent criminals who have committed even the most heinous violent crimes including murder, rape, child rape, and kidnapping. By applying no discretion or judiciousness to this process, the Governor is undermining the strength of the criminal justice system and the sanctity of our civil rights.
The Constitution of Virginia grants the Governor the authority to restore the civil rights of convicted felons. The Constitution also vests the clemency power in the office of the Governor. However, that authority is limited and must be applied on an individual basis. The Constitution says no "person" may vote unless "his" civil rights have been restored by the Governor.
In 2010, counsel to Democratic Governor Tim Kaine said blanket orders restoring rights was not a contemplated use of executive authority and would be a "rewrite of the law."We are reviewing the legal options available to challenge the Governor's action. While we explore our options, Republican leaders called on the Governor to convene a Special Session of the General Assembly and was promptly rejected. This matter is very important to the people of Virginia. They deserve to have their voices heard through their elected representatives.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. I hope you will sign up to receive regular legislative updates from my office. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any future questions or comments. It is an honor to represent you in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Quote of the Day:
"I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air." Margaret Thatcher