Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe secretly plotted (moohoohahahaha!) and then executed a plan to restore the voting rights to 200,000 convicted felons. This move bypasses the GOP controlled legislature and will send Republicans into a screaming fit of outrage and lawsuits:
There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it,” Mr. McAuliffe said Thursday, previewing the announcement he will make on the steps of Virginia’s Capitol, just yards from where President Abraham Lincoln once addressed freed slaves. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can.”
The action, which Mr. McAuliffe said was justified under an expansive legal interpretation of his executive clemency authority, goes far beyond what other governors have done, experts say, and will almost certainly provoke a backlash from Virginia Republicans, who have resisted measures to expand felons’ voting rights. It has been planned in secrecy, and comes amid an intensifying national debate over race, mass incarceration and the criminal justice system.
Considering the disenfranchisement of felons dates back to the Civil War, it’s unsurprising that the African American community is disproportionately affected. The NY Times reports that 20% of all black people in Virginia have been stripped of their right to vote under this antique and wholly pointless law.
Republicans will do everything possible to stop this but their reasoning will be specious at best and blatantly racist at worst. After all, the entire point of the American penal system is to allow people to pay their debt to society, not to punish them for the rest of their lives. Not that punishing felons is the actual reason so much as keeping minorities from voting.
Why else would a person that’s served their time and finished their parole not be allowed to vote? Remember, the American “justice” system just happens to arrest, charge and convict black people far more often than white people committing the exact same crimes. So it’s a well-known fact that disenfranchising felons amounts to an assault of minority voting rights.
This, not so coincidentally, is exactly why McAuliffe, a Democrat, kept his intentions quiet. Unlike Republicans, Democrats are perfectly happy to expand the voting electorate. Republicans will insist that this is a scheme to create more Democratic voters and they’d be right. But the fun thing about being a Democrat is that doing the right thing tends to benefit your party. Only in the mind of a Republican would allowing more people to vote be considered a bad thing.
Even sadder for Virginia Republicans, as they try to use the courts to overturn this tyrannical overreach, the Fourth Circuit Court in which Virginia sits is now tilted to the left, with 12 of the judges appointed by Presidents Carter (1), Clinton (4) and Obama (7). And good luck with the currently split Supreme Court.
This, my friends, is why elections matter. A Democratic governor backed by a court with Democratically appointed judges will erode the numerous voter suppression schemes Republicans have in place to cling to unearned power by denying people their right to vote.
It doesn’t get any more American than that!
Featured image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images