THE PARAGRAPHS OF THE DAY

Today’s paragraphs come to us from Hans von Spakovsky and Roger Clegg’s article at nationalreview.com.  They express what, it seems to me, is a very well reasoned explanation of what is wrong with Virginia Governor McAuliffe’s executive action giving convicted felons the vote:

What McAuliffe entirely dismisses is the principle that if you won’t follow the law yourself, you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. Restoring a felon’s right to vote should be done not automatically, as soon as he has completed his sentence, but carefully, on a case-by-case basis, after he has shown that he has really turned over a new leaf. The unfortunate truth is that many people who walk out of prison will be walking back in; recidivism rates are high. We have both testified before Congress and written about this problem. Governor McAuliffe may be happy as long as the ex-felons who can now vote just don’t walk back into prison before November. Governor McAuliffe may be happy as long as the ex-felons who can now vote just don’t walk back into prison before November.

Having a waiting period, examining each ex-felon’s application for restoration of rights carefully and individually, and differentiating between violent and nonviolent crimes is exactly the system that Virginia had — at least until Friday’s order. In a three-page summary released by the governor’s office, McAuliffe asserts that any claim that he doesn’t have the authority to grant a blanket restoration of rights is “far-outside the weight of constitutional authority across the nation and would read into the text of the Virginia Constitution words that simply are not there.” This is just legal gibberish — the weight of constitutional authority “across the nation” has no bearing on interpreting the Virginia constitution. McAuliffe is reading into that constitution authority he does not have.

That isn’t just our opinion; it is the opinion of prior governors and attorneys general of both political parties. For example, on January 15, 2010, Mark Rubin, the counselor for former Virginia governor Tim Kaine (D., now a U.S. senator), sent a letter on the governor’s behalf to the ACLU, saying that Kaine did not have the executive power “to grant a blanket restoration of voting rights,” which the ACLU had requested. Kaine supported restoration of voting rights but refused to act because his counsel’s view was that the “better argument” was that the powers in the Virginia constitutional provision on clemency (Article 5, Section 12) “are meant to apply in particular cases to named individuals.” In fact, “a blanket order restoring the voting rights of everyone would be a rewrite of the law. . . . The notion that the Constitution of the Commonwealth could be rewritten via executive order is troubling.”

Mr. von Spakovsky and Mr. Clegg win Paragraphs Of The Day honors for laying this out so clearly and so well.

Count on their reasoning to never see the light of day in most mainstream media.

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