Virginia's highest court overturns order that gave voting rights to felons

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Virginia’s highest court on Friday overturned an executive order the governor issued in April that had given voting rights to felons, and ordered that the state registrars to cancel voter registration for felons.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order in April that restored voting for over 200,000 people who had finished serving their time in prison. People currently serving time in prison and currently on supervised probation and parole were still barred from voting.

Prior to McAuliffe’s April order, Virginia was one of four states where felons are permanently restricted from voting. According to NPR, Virginia had one of the highest rates of people disenfranchised because of felony convictions. Preventing felons from voting has a particular racial bent: In Virginia, 1 in 4 African Americans had been barred from voting due to a felony conviction, according to The Washington Post.


But the highest court said Friday that McAuliffe did not have the authority to issue the executive order. The court said voting could be considered on an individual basis, but not as part of a blanket order.

McAuliffe, however, repeated his vow to restore the voting rights for felons, saying he would individually restore voting for 200,000 people if forced.

In 38 states plus the District of Columbia, felons are allowed to vote upon completion of their sentence. In two states, Vermont and Maine, even people serving time in prison can vote.

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