Gov. McAuliffe Rewrites Virginia’s Constitution to Help Democrats

Convicted felons have been unable to vote in Virginia since the 1830s. Well, that was the law until this past week, when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a sweeping executive order that automatically restored voting rights to ex-felons — including those convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape, sexual assault, and other violent crimes — as soon as they have completed their sentences.

Virginia’s law made sense. If you won’t follow the law yourself, the reasoning goes, you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else. But while you couldn’t demand it, you could ask for it. Virginia law provided for restoration of voting rights on a case-by-case basis to those ex-felons who demonstrated that they could again be trusted with the franchise.

McAuliffe’s actions effectively rewrite the Virginia Constitution, which provides for restoration of voting rights on an individual basis. 

But McAuliffe clearly wasn’t going to let some pesky document like the Commonwealth’s constitution get in the way of partisan politics. The move could add more than 200,000 voters to a state that is sure to be a key swing state in the 2016 election. 

So which way will ex-felons swing Virginia? Take a guess. I’ll give you a hint: 7 in 10 felons are registered Democrats.