On Friday, April 22nd Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring the civil rights of 206,000 convicted felons, including violent offenders. The executive action taken by the office of the Governor is unconscionable. Not only are nonviolent and violent felons now going to be able to vote, but they are going to be allowed the opportunity to sit on juries. 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.
I find this action to be unequivocally alarming.
Governor McAuliffe issued the order despite determinations by previous governors, including then-Governor Timothy M. Kaine (D), that the Constitution of Virginia restricts the governor’s power to restore rights to a case-by-case basis. Governor McAuliffe’s order violated this limitation on his power, simultaneously restoring these rights to 206,000 convicted felons.
In addition to the request for a special session to be convened, Speaker Howell and Majority Leader Norment are requesting detailed information regarding those to whom the order applies. Specifically, they are calling for a list of the individuals to whom the order applies, with information on the offenses for which they were convicted and the complete sentence imposed. Since Governor McAuliffe’s order restored these rights without requiring the convicted felons eligible to have paid their fines, court costs, or restitution to victims, the General Assembly leaders are also requesting that information.
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.
I will be sure to keep you updated on what is to come of this executive order and the constitutionality of it.
If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434)821-5929 or email at Delmfariss@house.virginia.gov. You can also keep up with me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.