Virginia Republicans, governor continue to brawl over felon voting rights

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The six-month long battle over felon rights restoration between Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Republican Caucus is showing no signs of slowing down before the election. 

It all started with an executive order. McAuliffe wanted a blanket restoration of Virginia felon’s voting rights, but that didn’t exactly go over will with many Virginia Republicans. 

“The issue that I have with what the governor is doing is that there are individuals who are still serving active sentences. They haven’t been released off probation and still owe money to their victims,” said Delegate Chris Collins (R-District 29). 

Republicans filed and won a lawsuit against the governor in Virginia Supreme Court in July, but in response, McAuliffe began personally restoring rights to the 13,00 felons who were impacted.

“I believe that this was an attempt to add a whole bunch of voters in attempt to sway what they believe would be Democratic voters. Something similar was tried four years ago without success,” Collins said. 

Collins said his party is supportive of felons who have paid all of their debts to society voting, but he said restrictions are necessary.

“There are some laws that we are working on right now to try to make the process more simplified in order to allow felons to get their voting rights back, but there actually has to be a system to be able to do that,” Collins said. 

WHAG spoke to several felons who didn’t want to face public scrutiny, but many other Virginia residents were quick to offer their support. 
 
“I agree that all felons should have the right to vote and I believe that all prisoners should be able to cast an absentee ballot. I believe nobody that is a citizen of the U.S. should be denied the right to vote,” said Daren Johnson. 
 
“Well, I think there’s been a good bit done to try to take away voting rights in a lot of different states. So, if the felons have served their time and duty, I don’t see why they should be denied the right to vote,” said Michael Shipley. 
 
Last week, McAuliffe extended the voter registration deadline by 24 hours in order to ensure that every Virginian has the opportunity to cast a ballot in November. 

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