Virginia Governor Restores Voting Rights To 200,000 Ex-Felons

In a huge step forward for criminal justice reform, Virginia's Governor has restored voting rights for some 200,000 people who have paid their debt to society.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has restored the voting rights of some 200,000 ex-felons who have fulfilled the requirements of their sentence:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will allow more than 200,000 ex-cons in Virginia to register to vote in the upcoming presidential election, one of the biggest actions taken by a state to instantly restore voting rights.

The change applies to all felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole. The Democratic governor’s decision particularly affects black residents of Virginia: 1 in 4 African Americans in the state has been permanently banned from voting because of laws restricting the rights of those with convictions.

“Once you have served your time and you’ve finished up your supervised parole. . .I want you back as a full citizen of the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “I want you to have a job. I want you paying taxes, and you can’t be a second-class citizen.”

The governor called the instant restoration of rights to these Virginians the natural next step to his incremental streamlining of a process that has already given 18,000 nonviolent felons their rights back. With the signing of Friday’s executive order, McAuliffe eliminated the need for an application for violent felons who had completed their sentences up to that moment.

The announcement Friday immediately drew criticism from Republicans who viewed McAuliffe’s action as a blatant favor to his longtime friend Hillary Clinton, for whom he and his wife recently raised $2 million at their McLean home.

“It is hard to describe how transparent the Governor’s motives are,” House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in a statement. “The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet.”

Along with restoring voting rights, the governor’s action restores the right to serve on a jury, run for office and become a notary public. The new rights also apply to felons convicted in another state and living in Virginia.

“It is a historic day for democracy in Virginia and across our nation,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority, a progressive activist group. “The disenfranchisement of people who have served their sentences was an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past.”

Across the country, state laws vary on the right to vote for ex-offenders. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, about 5.85 million Americans with felony convictions (and misdemeanors in several states) cannot vote. The Sentencing Project estimates that 1 in 13 African Americans are prohibited from voting

Three states — Kentucky, Iowa and Florida — permanently revoke voting rights for people with prior felony convictions. Virginia has also been one of those states that revoked the right to vote. But in recent years, both McAuliffe and his Republican predecessor,  Robert F. McDonnell, have used their executive authority to try to restore voting rights to ex-offenders.

Republicans were particularly outraged that the policy doesn’t take into account the violence of the crime, whether the person committed serial crimes, whether they’ve committed crimes since completing their sentence or whether they’ve paid their victims back for medical bills.

“Murder victims don’t get to sit on juries but now the man that killed them will,” said Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Albemarle), who is running for attorney general. “A murder victim won’t get to vote, but the man that killed them will.”

In reaction to criticism that the timing of the announcement helps Clinton’s campaign, McAuliffe denied that the move was politically motivated and said his administration has been working on it for six to eight months.

McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and chairman  of Clinton’s 2008 campaign for president, said he couldn’t say what impact the move would have on her current race for the White House.

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “How many are going to vote, we have no idea. I mean literally no idea. … I did this because it was the right thing to do.

McAuliffe will have to sign an identical executive order every month for the remaining two years of his term to cover violent felons who get out of prison each month. The next governor could easily reverse the designation for future felons by ending the practice that McAuliffe began Friday. Virginia governors serve one four-year term and there’s an election in 2017.

Each state that allows ex-offenders to vote has its own process. Residents in Maine and Vermont never lose their right to vote, even if they are in prison. In 38 states and the District, most felons   automatically gain the right to vote when they complete their sentence, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. In other states, they have to apply to have voting rights restored.

“This is a humongous change,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the voting rights and election project at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “What this will do is move Virginia, which was among the worst of the worst in terms of disenfranchising people, to a much more middle-of-the-road policy.”

The restoration of voting rights to people who have served their sentence and completed any necessary probation has become an increasingly central part of the overall criminal justice reform movement that has created some unlikely political alliances on the national and state level. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, for example, was talking about the issue as long ago as two years ago and last year became the co-sponsor of a bill that would restore voting rights to a large category of such people nationwide, although it would only apply to Federal elections since Congress cannot dictate how states handle their own election process. At the state level, the effort to simplify the process that ex-felons must go through to get their rights restored has been underway for some time now, but seems to have picked up steam in recent years. Other states have been gradually been changing their laws to provide that voting and other civil rights are automatically restored upon completion of a sentence, including any conditions of probation or parole. Indeed, there are now only three states left in the country where someone convicted of a felony permanently loses their right to vote, Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky.  Given the trends on this issue, it likely won’t be long before those states reform their laws as well.

While Republicans in Virginia and several conservative bloggers are accusing McAuliffe of taking this action in an effort to help the political fortunes of Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, it strikes me that this is a generally good idea. Once someone has completed the terms of their sentence, there seems to me to be no valid reason to continue denying them their civil rights, including the right to vote, either until they are able to navigate a restoration petition through a bureaucratic maze or for the rest of their lives. Whether the ex-felons choose to exercise that right to vote or not is their choice, but to the extent it symbolizes the fact that the completion of their sentence should be seen as a second chance at a clean life, a step like this could just be what it takes to help many of these people avoid falling through the cracks again. One objection that has been raised to efforts such as the one McAuliffe has taken here is that it doesn’t necessarily take into account whether the felon has made restitution to their victim(s), but if that isn’t a term of their sentence or probation then it seems unfair to hold this over their head as the price for the restoration of their rights. In any case, hopefully this move will provide impetus to similar efforts across the country, because it’s long overdue.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Once someone has completed the terms of their sentence, there seems to me to be no valid reason to continue denying them their civil rights, including the right to vote, either until they are able to navigate a restoration petition through a bureaucratic maze or for the rest of their lives.

    I wholeheartedly agree. If one commits a crime, one should serve one’s sentence and be allowed to move on, not have a life-long status as a semi-citizen. Apart from pure vindictiveness, I am not certain what the rationale is for such a punishment.

  2. Jack says:

    Doug,

    Once someone has completed the terms of their sentence, there seems to me to be no valid reason to continue denying them their civil rights, including the right to vote, either until they are able to navigate a restoration petition through a bureaucratic maze or for the rest of their lives.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I wholeheartedly agree. If one commits a crime, one should serve one’s sentence and be allowed to move on, not have a life-long status as a semi-citizen. Apart from pure vindictiveness, I am not certain what the rationale is for such a punishment.

    I eagerly await your call for restoration of gun rights to these stellar citizens. After all, it is a civil right.

  3. Pch101 says:

    Until assault with a deadly ballot becomes a crime, the gun analogies are ridiculous.

  4. Jack says:

    @Pch101: A civil right being restored is the question here. Not your immature fear of guns.

  5. stonetools says:

    So Governor McAuliffe is good for something, eh, Doug? ( For the lurkers, Doug opposed MacAuliffe for governor).

    Good move by McAuliffe, for all the reasons so ably stated by Doug . Hope it starts a trend.

  6. Pch101 says:

    @Jack:

    People with common sense understand the issue, which explains why you don’t.

  7. Jack says:

    @Pch101: Citizens have a right to defend themselves. In fact, it can never be certain when or if a firearm may need to be used in defense of self or others. What is certain is many people wish to retain their common law and unalienable rights to keep and bear arms for a lawful purpose.

    Are you suggesting these stellar individuals should remain 2nd class citizens hiding in the shadows and not be allowed to exercise all their freedoms after they paid their debt to society?

  8. Arlingtonian says:

    This executive order sets a very bad precedent, and makes little logical sense. Even Democratic lawyers used to admit that such an executive order would violate the state constitution.

    Murderers and rapists who have not paid restitution to their victims should not be allowed to serve on a jury or vote (McAuliffe’s action allows these law breakers to sit on juries, which puts people’s liberty and legal rights at risk, since a jury that includes criminals is likely to produce less thoughtful, fair and accurate decisions than one that doesn’t).

    http://www.lonelyconservative.com/2016/04/virginia-governor-uses-executive-order-to-give-felons-the-right-to-vote/

    “Democratic “Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia will use his executive power on Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, circumventing his Republican-run legislature. The action will overturn a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution,” reported the New York Times earlier today. “The sweeping order, in a swing state that could play a role in deciding the November presidential election, will enable all felons who have served their prison time and finished parole to register to vote. Most are African-Americans, a core constituency of Democrats, Mr. McAuliffe’s political party.” Even murderers and rapists are now allowed to vote.

    Where do governors get the power to ‘overturn’ a ‘provision in the state’s Constitution,’ as the New York Times puts it? Governors take an oath to uphold the state constitution, not overturn it. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, ‘The Constitution of Virginia has prohibited felons from voting since the Civil War . . . Previous governors have said that they thought a wholesale restoration of rights would require a change to the Virginia Constitution.’

    Objecting to McAuliffe’s order, which was issued today around 11 a.m., ‘Republicans pointed to a 2010 letter written by an attorney for [then] Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, stating that a blanket restoration of rights would amount to a ‘troubling’ rewrite of state law and the Constitution.’

    This looks like an obvious attempt to change the result of close elections in a key swing state by changing the electorate itself (felons vote lopsidedly for the Democrats).”

  9. Pch101 says:

    @Jack:

    A guy with a history of violence should not have his violence facilitated.

    A guy with a history of violence can’t harm anyone with a ballot.

    This is not complicated.

  10. Jack says:

    @Pch101:

    A guy with a history of violence should not have his violence facilitated.

    A guy with a history of violence can’t harm anyone with a ballot.

    This is not complicated

    Then maybe this guy shouldn’t be released at all? hmmmm?

    Besides, according to president Obama, “About one in every 35 African American men, one in every 88 Latino men is serving time right now,” the President said. “Among white men, that number is one in 214.”

    So not only do you want to continue to punish these stellar individuals who have paid their debt to society, you want to keep a vast majority of minorities from exercising a fundamental civil right for the remainder of their lives.

    RACIST!

  11. Pch101 says:

    @Jack:

    You can’t possibly expect sane people to take you seriously.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Apart from pure vindictiveness, I am not certain what the rationale is for such a punishment.

    The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States. – House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford)

    Their rationale seems clear. That statement may or may not be true of McAuliffe, the obverse is almost certainly true of Speaker Howell. It worked for Jeb and Dubyah.

  13. Jack says:

    @Pch101: You are suggesting that just because someone has been convicted of a felony that they should not be allowed to exercise a civil right. You are the one that should not be taken seriously.

    60 percent: The share of U.S. prisoners that are either African American or Latino.

    You are also suggesting these minority citizens should not be able to exercise their civil rights.

    You have been caught in a catch 22 and now you are stuck…and a racist.

  14. Lawyer and former court clerk says:

    McAuliffe’s executive order was unwise. A fallacy underlies the arguments made by Doug Mataconis and Steven L. Taylor above: that barring felons from voting only serves a punitive end. In reality, as former Assistant Attorney General Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity notes in the New York Times, it serves important civic ends as well.

    As he explained yesterday in “If You Can’t Follow Laws, You Shouldn’t Help Make Them”:

    “We have certain minimum standards of responsibility and commitment to our laws before entrusting someone with a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government. People who commit serious crimes against their fellow citizens do not qualify.

    The right to vote should only be restored to felons on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has truly changed.

    More succinctly, if you won’t follow the law yourself, then you can’t make the law for everyone else, which is what you do – directly or indirectly – when you vote.

    The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. The unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in.

    The arguments in favor of automatic felon voting are unpersuasive. The fact that a disproportionate number of felons at some point in time belong to a particular racial group does not make disenfranchisement racist, just as most felons being male and young does not make these laws sexist or ageist. And while a disproportionate number of felons are black, their victims likewise are disproportionately black, so minimizing the consequences of crime and empowering criminals also has a disparate impact on their law-abiding African-American neighbors. . . .

    It’s claimed that, once released, felons should be re-enfranchised because they have ‘paid their debt to society.’ But this phrase is misleading, since in many respects we don’t ignore a criminal past – for example, in allowing someone to buy a gun.”

    McAuliffe’s action applies to even the most violent felons who have not made restitution to their victims.

  15. Jenos Idanian says:

    So…

    1) McAuliffe isn’t changing the law by actually changing the law (as in, getting the legislature to change it) or getting it struck down, but changing it by fiat.

    2) The outrage about denying felons certain fundamental rights is limited to select areas, and others — like being able to lawfully defend their lives — not so much.

    3) That this will benefit the exceptionally corrupt Terry McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton is purely coincedental, and imputing any such motivation is just terrible.

    4) If McAuliffe was really concerned about the rights of convicted felons, he’d at least consider issuing such an executive order restoring the 2nd Amendment rights of non-violent offenders. But that won’t get him as many votes.

    5) This move will only last as long as McAuliffe remains governor. The next governor can end it (and, possibly, do so retroactively), but the people affected by it will be voting on the next governor.

    6) Do the felons get a pre-filled-out Democratic voter registration card, too, just to save time?

  16. Pch101 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Even before the parties swapped sides on major issues, Republicans would pray for rain on election day (GOP voters are fewer in number but more committed, so low turnout benefits them), while the Dems would hope for good weather (with flakier voters, it helps them to have as many factors as possible that favor voting.)

    The difference now is that Republicans today are trying to make their jobs easier by keeping people away from the ballot box altogether. It’s gotten to the point that they barely make an effort to conceal the agenda.

    Perhaps we should take the opposite stance and support mandatory voting instead. Voting is a form of civic duty, service that is owed to a democracy.

  17. Jack says:

    @Pch101:

    Voting is a form of civic duty, service that is owed to a democracy.

    Now you are suggesting indentured servitude. This, along with mandatory health insurance, forces all citizens to perform an act at the behest of government.

    I forget, when did the citizens become slaves to the government?

  18. Pch101 says:

    Yes, voting is just like slavery.

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, just demonstrates that gun nuts are truly nuts.

  19. Jack says:

    @Pch101: You may have forgotten, but Saddam Hussein received 100% of the vote in his last election.

    A government forcing anyone to do anything against their will is servitude.

    Next you will suggest the government outlaw the Republican party so there is only one party left for which the citizens can vote.

  20. David M says:

    Why does the GOP always go for the stupidest argument first? Do they have nothing better, but know they have to oppose everything done by a Democrat?

  21. Jc says:

    I believe they could possibly get their right to have a firearm back as well. Did you read the release, Jack?

  22. Jack says:

    @Jc: The release I saw mentioned nothing about automatic restoration of firearm rights.

    Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia grants the Governor the authority to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” of a felony.

    I find it difficult to believe firearms fall under the heading of political disabilities.

  23. stonetools says:

    @Arlingtonian:

    This executive order sets a very bad precedent, and makes little logical sense. Even Democratic lawyers used to admit that such an executive order would violate the state constitution.

    TBH, you are right. It should be established by law that felons should have the right to vote after they serve their sentences. Unfortunately, there are these people called Republicans who like to suppress the right to vote…

  24. stonetools says:

    @Pch101:

    Jack’s statements are what passes for rational argument in conservative circles. It’s why we Americans cannot have nice things.

  25. Jc says:

    No, but now they can petition the court to get that right back (depending on the felony), now that they have their political rights back. Also the current gov gave those whose rights were restored by another state the right to possess a firearm in VA. I believe he signed that a year ago, likely to disagreement from his democratic counterparts. I understand the 2nd amendment is THE MOST important right in your eyes, but most people don’t hold that same opinion.

  26. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Lawyer and former court clerk:

    so much text and almost all of it disingenuous.

    Voting rights in this case are not being restored the day the person is released from prison, with no further consideration. They are being restored once the person has cleared their parole and probation requirements. In other words, once they have demonstrated that they can function out in the world without falling back into their old ways.

  27. stonetools says:

    @Lawyer and former court clerk:

    The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison.

    You do understand that we are taking about a constitutional right here, like the right to freedom of speech.?
    Indeed , substitute “freedom of speech” or “right to counsel” and see if your statement still makes sense.

  28. Pch101 says:

    The 2nd amendment provides us with the right to be inducted into militia service, i.e. the right to serve as cannon fodder at the behest of the government. A wee bit more onerous than pulling a lever in a voting booth.

    Oh, the irony.

  29. Pch101 says:

    @stonetools:

    Their position isn’t even political, it’s just neurotic.

  30. stonetools says:

    From the WAPO article:

    A.E. Dick Howard, a University of Virginia legal scholar and chief draftsman of the state constitution when it was revamped in 1971, advised McAuliffe that his order is legal.

    Howard said in an interview that McAuliffe’s action “buries the last ghost” of the 1902 Virginia convention that produced a constitution mandating a poll tax, literacy test and complicated registration requirements. “That convention was set out to install and defend white supremacy in Virginia, and it was incredibly effective.”

    “This is really the last prop of white supremacy,” he said.

    I think I’ve figured out why the current Virginia Republican Party so strongly opposes McAuliffe’s order.

  31. Jack says:

    @Jc:

    I understand the 2nd amendment is THE MOST important right in your eyes, but most people don’t hold that same opinion.

    I support ALL civil rights. Not just the 2nd amendment. The rights afforded to us by the constitution are not a la carte for which the government gets they say in which ones you may or may not exercise.

  32. Jack says:

    @Pch101:

    The 2nd amendment provides us with the right to be inducted into militia service, i.e. the right to serve as cannon fodder at the behest of the government

    No. a militia is not a standing army and all persons are eligible to be in a militia.

    Militia – a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.

    This means those persons must own and know how to use (train) their weapons.

    “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” (Additional letters from the Federal Farmer, at 169, 1788)

  33. Patriot on a String says:

    As a Christian, strict Consitutionalist, and a Republican, the fear mongering of this act aiding the Democrats actually foreshadows the truth that 90% of the Convicted Felons who now register to Vote from this Executive Order WILL vote for Donald Trump in a General Election. So many in the Republican Party Elite have whispered should Trump some how win the GOP nomination that it is safer and more practical to vote for Hillary Clinton and are preparing the Republican Super PACs to support the Hillary Campaign against Trump… Ask yourself why many are afraid of Trump.. Someone that knows how and where Career Politicians are selling out us Taxpayers???? The Panama Papers are being ignored by both parties… Because they are all guilty… Need I remind you that our Founding Fathers who drafted the US Constitution and the pre-civil war Virginia Constitution were convicted Felons????? Convicted in absentia by the Crown for which they swore oath to for Treason….. After the Civil War many Southern States Constitutions were rewritten to prohibit Confederate Soldiers convicted in absentia as Felons for Treason all mostly White Men from voting and bearing arms because it prevented them from electing a new Confederate Supporting State Government, raising armies as militias, and attacking the Union Northern States again… Wake up and educate yourself and stop fear mongering… And Murders can’t vote as most are imprisoned til natural death or executed….. Blind ignorance… The law allows a local Circuit Court to restore Second Amendment Rights by review of the community that knows the felon… Sixty percent of these felons are Armed Forces Veterans that defended/fought for your Rights to be on here telling uneducated fears as truths.

  34. @Lawyer and former court clerk:

    More succinctly, if you won’t follow the law yourself, then you can’t make the law for everyone else, which is what you do – directly or indirectly – when you vote.

    By this logic, people who get speeding or parking tickets should be permanently disenfranchised.

    If you think this conclusion is absurd and that the severity of the action matters, then welcome to my side of the arguments, since the only crimes for which is it is logical to permanently disenfranchise someone is a crime that requires life imprisonment.

  35. Tyrell says:

    I am for these ex-convicts progressing and rebuilding their lives. Part of the process of becoming a responsible, contributing citizen is involvement in voting and citizenship. I am not sure that all of these people are going to hit the Democrat registration book. Many of them, from what I have noticed, have become very conservative in their outlook.

  36. Further, most of the pro-disenfranchisement posts here are assuming that we are talking here about serious, violent felons. This is not the case. In most states any felony conviction can lead to essentially permanent disenfranchisement. This includes a 19 year-old caught with too much marijuana or some other foolish choice made by a young person. And beyond that, the fact that the law dictates X number of years for punishment for Y crime should not lead to permanent punishment once X sentence has been served.

    A lot of this is just the fairly typical reaction that many have that “once a criminal, always a criminal” and the treatment of such persons as second-class citizens en masse.

  37. @Jack: I am not as conversant on the rules about gun ownership for felons as I am for voting rights. However, if we assume for the sake of argument that the right to own a gun is treated identically to that of voting rights on this issue I will actually concur and state that depending on the crime that a blanket prohibition is unfair.

    I will say that depending on the nature of the crime that conditions of release might logically bar one from owning a weapon. This is not unreasonable in my mind, although you are free to disagree. I think (and you will also disagree with this) that voting rights are more fundamental to basic citizenship than is the right to keep and bear arms.

    Still, if you think you it is wrong to deny gun rights to ex-felons you shouldn’t play the either/or game. You should at least agree that voting right should not be denied and then discuss why gun rights should also be included in the discussion.

    Of course, your insistence to use the phrase “stellar citizens” underscore your sarcastic and unserious approach to the conversation.

  38. Jc says:

    The former governor of VA is saying “Amen, brother Taylor!” 🙂

  39. @Jack:

    I support ALL civil rights.

    Then you should support restoration of voting rights and then make your case for restoration of gun rights.

  40. Pch101 says:

    Voting is akin to jury duty or being drafted. These are civic obligations that are “rights” in the sense that a free society must have these lest we end up with the alternatives (dictatorship, kangaroo courts, being defeated by an enemy or having our military dominated by mercenaries), but exercising those rights is still a burden.

    It’s great to fight for your “right” to parrrrrrrrrrrrrrty, but that isn’t really what freedom is about. Voting isn’t a gift or a tool for punishment, it’s a job. Not much reason that those who are released who weren’t convicted of voter fraud should not eventually be expected to participate in the democracy .

  41. Jc says:

    @Jack:

    I support ALL civil rights.

    Then why do you vote GOP?

  42. Jack says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Of course, your insistence to use the phrase “stellar citizens” underscore your sarcastic and unserious approach to the conversation.

    Anyone that cannot be trusted to own/carry a gun cannot be trusted without 24/7 supervision. If these citizens are in fact stellar, they should be able to vote and possess firearms. If they cannot be trusted to own a firearm, then they cannot be trusted to participate in civilized society.

  43. Jack says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Then you should support restoration of voting rights and then make your case for restoration of gun rights.

    I am suggesting that you should not logically support one without supporting the other.

  44. MBunge says:

    One can make a legitimate argument against restoring voting rights. “It will help the other side” is not it.

    And as much as people may hate to admit it, Jack is correct. If the issue is about restoring Constitutional/civil rights, there’s little justification in prioritizing some rights over others.

    Mike

  45. MBunge says:

    @Pch101:
    Voting is akin to jury duty or being drafted

    No, it isn’t. There a a host of reasons that can prevent someone from either serving on a jury or enlisting in the military. Neither are equivalent to the right to vote.

    Mike

  46. @Jack: You miss the point. I am not arguing that they are “stellar” but rather am pointing out that they are citizens.

    Further, I have conceded that blanket gun restrictions may very well not be appropriate.

    And yet, you can’t bring yourself to do so on voting, which makes no sense except to demonstrate that you really aren’t trying to have a serious conversation about disenfranchisement of ex-felons, but simply want to talk about guns.

    You like guns and think that they are important. We understand that. Yet you have provided no cogent argument as to why all ex-felons should be denied voting rights.

  47. Pch101 says:

    @MBunge:

    Er, you do understand that not everyone can vote, right?

  48. stonetools says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Note here that Maine allows incarcerated felons to vote. This should be evidence for an argument hat maybe the right to vote shouldn’t be suspended or abrogated even if someone has committed a serious crime. I’m not aware that Maine has suffered in any way whatsoever because it allows felons to vote.

  49. Gustopher says:

    @Jack: I think the gun rights should also, in general, be restored once a felon has completed their sentence and parole — so long as we treat gun ownership as an individual right, the onus is on the state to prove that the individual cannot exercise that right.

    During the waiting period and background check, the state should have to ask a judge to intervene. A felony conviction — particularly a violent felony — should be taken into account, as should treatment for psychosis, anger problems, etc.

    There are lots of people with felony convictions that are as likely to be responsible gun owners as anyone else (not that felons are stellar citizens in all cases, but that gun owners have set the bar pretty low).

  50. Lit3Bolt says:

    @MBunge:

    Jack believes Islamic terrorists have the right to bear arms.

    Guns are not fundamental rights. How do I know this? Because they require money. If they were truly “protected by the Constitution,” then every and all Americans would be given a free gun on their 18th birthday along with their draft form.

    By his disingenuous call to restore 2nd Amendment rights, Jack reveals some glimmer of sanity in that he agrees that some people should not have guns.

    That, of course, is tyranny of the highest order. Guns should be government sanctioned and subsidized. We need guns in school, guns in nursing homes, guns in church. We need guns at football games, children’s birthday parties, and Congressional committee meetings. We need more guns in Congress and in corporate boardrooms. Students should always carry a gun when they meet with their professor. HR personal should carry guns at all times. Doctors and dentists should be armed to put their patients at ease. Retail clerks should complete every transaction while pointing a gun at the customer to prevent robberies. Every protester and primary voter should carry a gun with no safety, just to make things more polite. And of course, every prisoner should have a gun, because not having a gun violates the 8th Amendment.

    Once every minute of every day in America is a Mexican standoff, only then will the 2nd Amendment be truly fulfilled.

  51. Pch101 says:

    We’re not keen on allowing pedophiles near kids. Not sure why we would possibly want ex-cons who were violent to be allowed near weapons.

    Except for those who were convicted of voter fraud, not really comparable to voting at all.

  52. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge: it is reasonable to prioritize the rights that have the least negative consequences to society.

    The risk to you if a felon votes is roughly zero. The risk to you if a felon has a gun is somewhat above that.

    So, a blanket restoration of the right to vote may be more appropriate than a blanket restoration of right to own a gun. I think the onus should be on the state in either case to justify denying that right, but the former can be automatic since there really isn’t a justification for not letting felons vote beyond “we just don’t want them to”

  53. Gustopher says:

    @Lit3Bolt: also, delegates to the Republican Convention should be armed. As should the candidates.

  54. stonetools says:

    @MBunge:

    One can make a legitimate argument against restoring voting rights.

    Maybe one day I’ll see that unicorn.

    And as much as people may hate to admit it, Jack is correct. If the issue is about restoring Constitutional/civil rights, there’s little justification in prioritizing some rights over others.

    I can see sound public policy arguments for not letting someone with a history of violence have his gun rights automatically restored . The Constitution is not a suicide pact. In any case, the whole silly gun rights argument is a side show here. Heck, why stop at guns?. Why not allow felons to have access to daggers, brass knuckles, hand grenades, land mines, flamethrowers, shoulder-fired surface to air missiles, and any other type of “arms” they feel they need to have to “defend themselves”?(Hint: If the argument is “public policy”, then I refer to you back to the first sentence of this paragraph. ).

  55. stonetools says:

    @Jack:

    Jack, your argument with is with this guy, who in your favorite Supreme Court case said this:

    nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.26

    Of course, since he pulled that exception out of his posterior (like so much else in that case), you can probably make a good argument against this, but that’s the law, for the time being.

  56. Pch101 says:

    A felon armed with a ballot could use it to inflict paper cuts on innocent women and children. Not sure why so many of you are taking this threat so lightly — oh, the humanity…

  57. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I support ALL civil rights.

    Then you should support restoration of voting rights and then make your case for restoration of gun rights.

    That is not necessarily true. One can support all rights and simultaneously support that one can forfeit one’s rights upon conviction of a crime.

    Here, the inconsistency is on the side of those pushing for the change — they want to restore certain rights, but not others.

  58. Davebo says:

    @Pch101: Jacks just being obtuse.

    Federal law trumps state laws and it prohibits most felons from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

    I like an argument or debate as much as the next guy but Jack just isn’t worth bothering with.

  59. Passerby says:

    Like a stopped clock that is right twice a day, Jack has a point. Although I hate to admit it.

    There is no constitutional right to vote, amazingly enough, only a right not to be denied the vote for racially or sexually discriminatory reasons or due to one’s poverty. The Fifteenth Amendment explicitly allows felons to be denied the right to vote, and even liberal federal appeals court judges (like the Second Circuit Court of Appeals) have held that general felon-disenfranchisement statutes are generally valid under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, given that language.

    By contrast, the Founders in their wisdom — or lack thereof — made gun rights a constitutionally protected right (although not without limits) in the Second Amendment (even if that may seem like an anachronism).

    So Professor Taylor’s argument that voting is a constitutional right and gun rights aren’t can’t justify the governor giving back voting rights but not gun rights.

    Moreover, there seem to be non-punitive reasons to bar violent felons, and felons who have not paid restitution to their victims, from voting, for the reasons given in some of the comments above. If we don’t let bright teenagers vote, or allow people who live in a state and pay taxes as H1B visa holders or as legal aliens, to vote, it is hard to see why felons must be allowed to vote. A 16 year old honor student will make better decisions in the voting booth and on a jury than the typical violent felon, who may suffer from bad impulse control and a skewed sense of right and wrong.

    The Governor’s order also lets ex-cons serve on juries — where they can do real harm — not just vote — where the harm, if any, is quite limited.

  60. Davebo says:

    @Passerby:

    The Fifteenth Amendment explicitly allows felons to be denied the right to vote, and even liberal federal appeals court judges (like the Second Circuit Court of Appeals) have held that general felon-disenfranchisement statutes are generally valid under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, given that language.

    Very true. But the Fifteenth Amendment doesn’t require that convicted felons lose their right to vote .

    And the actions here will only apply to state elections, not federal.

  61. @stonetools: I am actually more than willing to entertain the possibility that felons should be allowed to vote while incarcerated. However, since we can’t even agree that persons who have served their time should be allowed to vote, I figure that that is a bridge too far.

  62. @Passerby:

    There is no constitutional right to vote

    I disagree. The right to vote is acknowledged in the constitution in a way very similar to other basic rights, such as the five freedoms in the First Amendment, by stating the ways it cannot be abridged.

  63. stonetools says:

    @Passerby:

    If we don’t let bright teenagers vote, or allow people who live in a state and pay taxes as H1B visa holders or as legal aliens, to vote, it is hard to see why felons must be allowed to vote.

    It also doesn’t forbid the State from allowing felons to vote , either. Again, I see no reason why we should be taking away what is a fundamental right of citizenship (even if it is arguably , not a Constitutional right) once the felon has paid his debt to society.
    As always, the rule of reason should apply. It’s rational to say that someone who is convicted of armed robbery should not automatically have his right to own a weapon restored. It’s sensible not to give a person with a proven record of violence the means to commit more violence.
    On the other hand , you can’t shoot someone with a ballot. A convicted felon may exercise his right to vote irresponsibly, but that’s of minimal harm to me or to society.

  64. Tony W says:

    @Jack:

    I support ALL civil rights. Not just the 2nd amendment.

    Good. Let’s stop with the silly Scarlet Letter sex-offender notification laws too.

  65. @Passerby:

    So Professor Taylor’s argument that voting is a constitutional right and gun rights aren’t can’t justify the governor giving back voting rights but not gun rights.

    There is no reason why all rights must be treated in an absolutist fashion in terms of their equality. Indeed, we constantly have to balance rights.

  66. (also, I never stated that gun rights aren’t constitutional)

  67. Mister Bluster says:

    @Gustopher:..delegates to the Republican Convention should be armed. As should the candidates.

    So why not guns inside the Republican Convention?..So far, the party has declined to answer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in whose open-carry state the convention will be held, told reporters he would defer to the Secret Service. Ditto Ted Cruz, who once gleefully ate bacon cooked on the barrel of an AR-15 rifle.
    http://www.pressherald.com/2016/03/30/leonard-pitts-republican-hypocrisy-on-guns-is-obvious-at-their-national-convention/

  68. Pch101 says:

    …we conclude that the Equal Protection Clause guarantees the opportunity for equal participation by all voters in the election of state legislators. Diluting the weight of votes because of place of residence impairs basic constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment just as much as invidious discriminations based upon factors such as race, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 , or economic status, Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 , Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 . Our constitutional system amply provides for the protection of minorities by means other than giving them majority control of state legislatures. And the democratic ideals of equality and majority rule, which have served this Nation so well in the past, are hardly of any less significance for the present and the future.

    -Reynolds v. Sims

    Yes, there is a right to vote.

  69. M. Bouffant says:

    @stonetools: I dunno. Might explain Maine’s Gov. Paul “Let ’em die” LePage.

  70. Jenos Idanian says:

    Another thought just struck me: what about sex offenders? They are required to register with local law enforcement for the rest of their lives, so they’re never really done “paying their debt” and free of supervision. Do they get their vote back?

    Here’s a compromise: let the felons petition for their voting rights back. Let them demonstrate that it’s actually meaningful for them, that they’re interested in fully resuming their place in society, and then it’s decided. Maybe put it on the parole board, as they’re already making these kinds of decisions with these people, and this saves the expense of a whole new bureaucracy.

    Same with gun rights. Suppose Bernie Madoff were to somehow get freed. (Assume Hillary Clinton gets elected, and he makes a VERY sizable donation to the Clinton Foundation, and then coincidentally gets executive clemency.) He wasn’t convicted of any violent crimes, and he’s got enough enemies that he can make a hell of an argument that he’s got enemies who could pose a physical threat to him.

    Should Madoff be allowed to own a gun under such circumstances?

  71. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    I forget, when did the citizens become slaves to the government?

    Please, you know exactly when this happened Jack.
    Five seminal events caused citizens to become slaves to the federal government:
    (1) passage of the 16th amendment in 1913
    (2) passage of the social security act in 1935
    (3) election of Barack Obama as president in 2008
    (4) passage of the affordable care act in 2009
    (5) re-election of Barack Obama to a 2nd term in 2012

    … there, any other questions?

  72. An Interested Party says:

    Now you are suggesting indentured servitude. This, along with mandatory health insurance, forces all citizens to perform an act at the behest of government.

    I forget, when did the citizens become slaves to the government?

    So when are you going to sue the government for making you a slave by having to pay taxes?

    Interesting how conservatives seem to want to dampen voting as much as possible while liberals seem to want to make it easier for as many people as possible to vote…one of these is more democratic, and it isn’t the conservative position…

  73. Andre Kenji says:

    If there is an inherent right to owning guns then convicted felons should have should have the right to own them. That´s why only when owning guns is a privilege that we are going to have some sanity with this issue.

  74. Stonetools says:

    @al-Ameda:

    You forgot the election of FDR in 1932 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Otherwise, you perfectly described the road to serfdom that the country has travelled, according to conservatives. Unfortunately now we live in a country where our children can only ask us what it was like to live when men were free.

  75. DrDaveT says:

    @Lawyer and former court clerk:

    People who commit serious crimes against their fellow citizens do not qualify.

    Yes, but we’re not talking about the set of “people who committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens”. We’re talking about the set of people who were convicted of serious crimes against their fellow citizens.

    As with the death penalty, I will consider your arguments when you’ve fixed the systematic differences between those two sets.

  76. Matt says:

    @DrDaveT: Okay so tell me how someone getting busted with less than an ounce of weed is committing a serious crime against their fellow citizen?

    Yes you can be charged with a felony for having a little over half an ounce of weed (40 bucks worth). Even if you’ve had no prior convictions and it was found in your house which is completely empty except the weed. That still counts as a felony..

    In Arizona you can be charged with a class 6 felony just for having a tiny amount of “shake” (pot crumbs). Hell you can be charged with a class 6 felony for having papers if the cop decides you were going to use those papers to smoke a joint (paraphernalia).

    I could sit here and list 30 something other equally stupid ways you can be charged with a felony without involving any other people.

  77. Matt says:

    @DrDaveT: I think I misunderstood what you’re saying. I thought you were claiming that people who are convicted of a felony were somehow extra super bad people who victimized others. If that’s not the case then please disregard my post above.

  78. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: It’s almost cute when you think you’re clever, and show how clever you aren’t.

    So when are you going to sue the government for making you a slave by having to pay taxes?

    Under sovereign immunity, one can’t sue the federal government without getting their permission first. And how likely is that?

  79. dennis says:

    @Jack:

    I eagerly await your call for restoration of gun rights to these stellar citizens. After all, it is a civil right.

    And there goes Jack: missing the point, as is always the case.

  80. Pch101 says:

    “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes”

    Anyone want to guess where that quote comes from?

  81. dennis says:

    @David M:

    Why does the GOP always go for the stupidest argument first? Do they have nothing better, but know they have to oppose everything done by a Democrat?

    David, are you always in the habit of asking and answering your own question?

  82. dennis says:

    @stonetools:

    I think I’ve figured out why the current Virginia Republican Party so strongly opposes McAuliffe’s order.

    You know, stonetools, I used to dismiss that argument as so much hyperbole; but, after the last seven and something years, I’m not so sure anymore . . .

  83. dennis says:

    @Patriot on a String:

    As a Christian, strict Consitutionalist, and a Republican, the fear mongering of this act aiding the Democrats actually foreshadows the truth that 90% of the Convicted Felons who now register to Vote from this Executive Order WILL vote for Donald Trump in a General Election.

    1) What empirical evidence do you have that 90% of restored convicted felons will vote for Donald Trump?

    2) How does you being a Christian, strict Constitutionalist, and Republican inform you of that premise, and what are the several observations that bring you to that conclusion?

  84. dennis says:

    @Passerby:

    The Governor’s order also lets ex-cons serve on juries — where they can do real harm — not just vote — where the harm, if any, is quite limited.

    Don’t be silly. That’s why the voir dire exists.

  85. Why not also deny ex-felons the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and free exercise of religion?

    That would teach them what for.

  86. Frank from NL says:

    As a dutchie, I am kind of amused by the amount of rhetoric over this. I suspect most european democracies have no restrictions of this kind, and well, somehow they’re still alive. Then again, we don’t have as many ex-cons for lots of reasons.

    @Arlingtonian: “McAuliffe’s action allows these law breakers to sit on juries, which puts people’s liberty and legal rights at risk, since a jury that includes criminals is likely to produce less thoughtful, fair and accurate decisions than one that doesn’t)”

    Call me naive and idealistic, but I think that sometimes the opposite may actually be the case. An ex-criminal (they’re ex-criminals, not criminals, by the way…) might be more likely to see through a defender’s bullshit. I think the perspective of having been on the other side might actually be good in a jury at some times.

  87. Mister Bluster says:

    @Pch101:..“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes”
    Anyone want to guess where that quote comes from?

    Certainly not the Constitution as drafted by Jenos Washington.

    Jenos Idanian says: Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 13:40
    I would, if my Congressmen had any say in the matter. I should take it up with my Senators — there’s a difference, you know.
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/another-senator-defects-on-no-hearings-no-votes-as-public-opposition-rises/

  88. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Adlai Stevenson once said, “I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.” Critics of such measures believe in neither.

  89. An Interested Party says:

    @Jenos Idanian: It actually is cute that you believe that anyone cares about what you think…my point still stands…if Jack thinks he’s a slave because he has to pay taxes, what is he going to do about it? Meanwhile, rather than trying to bother me, don’t you have some medical bill you should be trying to get out of paying…

  90. grumpy realist says:

    @Jack: If a guy shoots and kills his wife with a gun, you’re damned right I don’t want him to have another one. He’s already shown he can’t be trusted with one. Just like how someone who is an embezzler doesn’t get to whine about the fact that he can’t get hired for positions where he handles finances.

    When voting kills other Americans, get back to me.

  91. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mister Bluster: OK, let’s clarify a few definitions here:

    Congress: The Senate and the House of Representatives, but only collectively. Neither by itself can be called “Congress.”

    Senator:
    Member of the Senate.

    Representative
    : Member of the House of Representatives.

    Congressman/Congresswoman/Member of Congress:
    Technically, a member of either House. Practically, a Representative who wants to sound more important.

    Linguistically speaking, I would find more honor in “Representative,” as it directly refers to holding the privilege of representing the will of the people, than “Senator,” which is derived from the Latin term for “old” and is also related to “senile,” but the Senate is seen as a more exclusive club to which to belong.

  92. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jenos Washington:
    Congressman/Congresswoman/Member of Congress:
    Technically, a member of either House.
    This is about as close to being factual that you are capable of.
    Practically, a Representative who wants to sound more important.
    This is your biased opinion which is worthless in defense of your incorrect statement claiming some difference between a Senator and a member of Congress.

  93. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mister Bluster: First up, you screwed up your HTML tags. Typically, I’m the one who does that, but I’ll let it slide. This time.

    Anyway, if I could insert a Venn diagram, I would draw one that showed “Member of Congress” as a circle that encompasses both “Senator” and “Representative,” showing that either could legitimately use the term.

    Then I would draw another, label it “actual usage,” and it would only enclose “Representative,” as I don’t recall any Senator ever using the more inclusive term.

    I’ll cop to being a tad pedantic in the first case, but I did it purely as a brief digression, and returned to the main point. For all your ill-graced pomposity, can you match my effort and actually address the points at hand?

  94. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jenos Idanian:..

    HTML tag:Wazzat?
    (Matching your efforts is not one of my goals in life.)