The Virginia Supreme Court rejected a petition from Republican leaders on Thursday that sought to hold Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in contemptfor restoring the voting rights of tens of thousands of ex-offenders ahead of the 2016 election.
McAuliffe attempted to automatically restore the rights of all 200,000 former felons in the state with an executive order back in April — bringing the state in line with nearly 40 others across the country that allow people to become full citizens again after serving their sentences.
But the state’s Republican leaders sued, claiming the governor had overstepped his legal authority. A narrow majority on the Virginia Supreme Court agreed, and the registrations of thousands of ex-offenders who had been hoping to vote for the first time in decades were put in jeopardy.
When McAuliffe attempted to get around the court order by signing each clemency petition individually, the Republican legislators sued him for contempt of court. Had the state Supreme Court accepted their arguments, thousands of ex-offenders in the state could have seen their voting rights re-appear and disappear twice in the span of just a few months.