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Thursday, April 28, 2016

U.S. News Op/Ed: McAuliffe Wrong on Voting Rights

Peter Roff, U.S. News, World Report contributing editor and longtime observer of the Washington scene has a great piece on the U.S. News and World Report web site that does a great job of explaining how Governor Terry McAuliffe over stepped his bounds when restoring the voting rights of over 200,000 felons who have completed their sentence and probation:
There's another piece to this, though, that makes a challenge almost irresistible. McAuliffe's executive order, as The Washington Post put it, "applies to all felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole," including those convicted in another state, and "restores the right to serve on a jury, run for office and become a notary public." Here we have several bridges that are simply too far for the average man or woman to stomach.

Just as all criminals are not the same, neither are all crimes. Under McAuliffe's new regime, a person who commits murder during the commission of another crime, child molesters, serial rapists and repeat offenders will receive the same treatment as those convicted of so-called victimless crimes like prostitution, those who have been jailed as part of the misguided war on drugs and white-collar criminals who have run afoul of the federal or state regulations that have criminal penalties attached. They will all have certain rights restored automatically without as much as a waiting period. Most people would not, one suspects, find this either just or fair. Whether we are willing as a society to forgive every aspect of every crime once a sentence has been completed is a complex moral question, one that has as many aspects to it as the governor's conspicuous and explicit statement in his order noting the restoration of Second Amendment rights are not up for discussion.

That a person who used a gun in the commission of a crime and went to prison for it should not have his gun rights restored is a persuasive argument. It is equally persuasive, however, that a person convicted of felony murder or a child molester is not as welcome back into society as someone who did time on a minor drug possession charge. The actions that landed them in prison are not equal from either a moral or legal standpoint; the consequences should not be equal either. Not that it is likely to happen, but do we really want a convicted felon sitting in judgment of the actions of another as a member of a jury? Can we really presume objectivity and a lack of bias would exist?

These are questions those who wish to serve in office in Virginia should take to the voters. As much as Gov. McAuliffe would like to pretend this is about righting a race-based wrong, it is really about our concept of justice. Some people, once they have served their time, are entitled to the presumption that their rights, all their rights, as a citizen should be restored. Some people simply are not. Saying so doesn't make it so.
Roff appeared on Cam and Company to discuss the article further.  He says that it far exceeds McAuliffe’s authority. The governor submitted no enabling legislation, nor created a distinction between those convicted of violent or nonviolent crimes. Roff says that McAuliffe is likely vying for a position in a future Clinton administration.

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