McAuliffe rights

Gov. Terry McAuliffe held up the order he signed to restore rights to felons at the Capitol in Richmond on April 22. The action was challenged in court.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will announce today that he has restored the rights of more than 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis, two sources said.

During a noon ceremony at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square, the governor also is expected to detail his rights-restoration process for other felons who have completed their terms.

In a 4-3 ruling on July 22, the Supreme Court of Virginia struck down as unconstitutional McAuliffe’s April 22 executive order that restored voting and other civil rights to about 206,000 felons who had completed their terms.

The court ordered the Virginia Department of Elections to cancel the registration of all felons who had been “invalidly registered” under McAuliffe’s actions.

The governor had promised to swiftly restore rights a second time for the roughly 13,000 ex-offenders who registered to vote under his order before the Supreme Court’s ruling. His office termed Monday’s event a “major restoration of rights announcement.”

As yet unanswered is how McAuliffe’s new actions and procedures will affect a series of complications that resulted from the rights restoration dispute.

The Virginia commissioner of elections said Friday that it’s up to Richmond officials to decide how to handle the candidacy of a felon who won and subsequently lost the right to vote and ran for office as a result of the governor’s now-overturned restoration order.

That guidance pertained only to the case of Richmond School Board candidate Kevin Starlings. He registered to vote after McAuliffe issued the blanket restoration. Starlings was certified to appear on the ballot but then lost the right to vote when the Supreme Court overturned McAuliffe’s order.

The rights restoration dispute also has ramifications for Richmond’s mayoral race. The ballot signature of a single felon who registered to vote this year, then lost his political rights in the Supreme Court’s decision, could be critical to candidate Michelle R. Mosby.

Four of Mosby’s 545 signatures to qualify for the ballot were from felons who registered under McAuliffe’s order that the Supreme Court overturned. One of those four was in Richmond’s 1st District, where Mosby obtained 50 qualified signatures, the precise number she needed for each district.

Mosby has been certified as a candidate for mayor, but state officials have not yet given local officials guidance on the issue.

Another side effect of the rights restoration dispute is that the Supreme Court’s reversal of McAuliffe’s order has left gun rights in limbo for some ex-offenders.

Restoration of civil rights is a prerequisite to apply for the restoration of firearms rights. A number of ex-offenders used their new status to apply to circuit courts to restore their gun rights and now possess firearms.

The governor’s office has blamed the complications on Republican leaders in the legislature who challenged McAuliffe’s order in court. GOP leaders say they brought the suit to hold McAuliffe accountable to the state constitution.

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