Thomas Gallatin / Jul. 25, 2016

Court Rules No Blanket Clemency for Ex-Felons

McAuliffe's attempt to turn Virginia blue is thwarted. For now.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Friday against Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s unprecedented unilateral action of restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 ex-felons. Responding to the ruling, Virginia House Speaker William Howell, a Republican, said, “Our nation was founded on the principles of limited government and separation of powers. Those principles have once again withstood assault from the executive branch. This opinion is a sweeping rebuke of the governor’s unprecedented assertion of executive authority.”

The court ruled 4-3 against the governor, calling his argument for his decision “overstated at best.” Virginia law gives the governor the authority to grant clemency on a case-by-case basis, which the court found did not justify McAuliffe’s blanket pardoning action. McAuliffe was attempting to take a page out of Barack Obama’s playbook, with his similar executive action on immigration — knowing the courts would strike it down, he still got political credit with a key constituency. Democrats seem to have a hard time when it comes to playing by the rules, as Hillary Clinton and her personal server attest to.

But not to be thwarted, McAuliffe has already declared that he will now seek to grant clemency by personally signing each of the 200,000 plus individual pardon orders. It will be interesting to see how he will meet the “particulars of every case and state his reasons for each pardon” as the law requires. The court should easily see through this charade as well.

This was and always has been a play for more Democrat votes. Virginia was once staunchly conservative, but it has become a swing state. And this current election is no different, as Virginia is once again in play for both parties. Does anyone really believe that McAuliffe would have taken this unprecedented action if it were primarily Republican votes in play?

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