Overcoming bitter opposition from Republican lawmakers, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia has largely rectified an enormous, archaic injustice: the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former felons — about half of them African Americans — whose debt to society has been paid, in many cases decades ago.
After prevailing in state courts, Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, was able to assert his power under the state constitution and has so far restored the vote to more than 156,000 ex-convicts. By the time his four-year term in office ends in January, he is on pace to have restored rights (including the right to serve on juries) to at least another 5,000 former felons.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the governor’s action, which he himself called his “proudest achievement” in office. His recent predecessors, all recognizing the injustice of indefinite suspension of civil rights for people who had completed their sentences, had each taken steps to expand rights restoration — particularly the man who immediately preceded him, former governor Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican former prosecutor. (Washington Post)