Virginia Supreme Court squashes Clinton-McAuliffe plan to win with felons’ votes
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime member of the Clinton Machine, tried to swing Virginia into semi-permanent blue status with sweeping executive orders that would have allowed hundreds of thousands of felons to vote in the November election. Felons are among the most loyal demographic slices of the citizenry for the Democratic Party. Far too little attention is given to the nature of that attraction, revolving around the notion of getting money and “stuff” without having to work for it, and to pay for it, taking money away from the people who earned it, at the point of a gun if necessary.
The state Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that McAuliffe exceeded his authority. The decision, written by Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, framed the question:
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia sets out a general rule of law and then provides for an exception: “No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.” Va. Const. art. II, § 1 (emphasis added). On April 22, 2016, Governor Terence R. McAuliffe issued an Executive Order that inverts this rule-exception sequence. The practical effect of this Executive Order effectively reframes Article II, Section 1 to say: “No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be disqualified to vote unless the convicted felon is incarcerated or serving a sentence of supervised release.” [emphais added]
Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia provides: “That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.” The major question before the Court is whether the Executive Order “suspends” a general principle of voter disqualification and replaces it with a new principle of voter qualification that has not received the “consent of the representatives of the people.”
The Court found that McAuliffe had operated without the consent of the people.
This rule-exception inversion may appear subtle to some, but it undermines the very basis for the legitimate use of the executive restoration power. All agree that the Governor can use his clemency powers to mitigate a general rule of law on a case-by-case basis. But that truism does not mean he can effectively rewrite the general rule of law and replace it with a categorical exception. The express power to make exceptions to a general rule of law does not confer an implied power to change the general rule itself. The unprecedented scope, magnitude, and categorical nature of Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order crosses that forbidden line. [emphasis added]
Thanks to the large suburban population of Washington, DC in the northern counties, Virginia has become a fairly reliably blue state. But this court decision helps the prospects for Trump and future Republicans in Virginia.