As we all know, last week Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order which purports to immediately re-enfranchise all persons convicted of felonies who have completed parole. The order makes no mention of having to complete court-ordered restitution to the victims of crimes before voting rights will be restored and does not distinguish between violent and non-violent offenders.
However, Governor McAuliffe now has apparently run afoul of Virginia Constitution Article V, Section 12 which requires him to report to the General Assembly the particulars of every case where “political disabilities consequent upon conviction for offenses” have been removed. http://hodcap.state.va.us/publications/Constitution-01-13.pdf
This Governor McAuliffe cannot do. Not even AE Dick Howard, University of Virginia legal scholar and chief draftsman of the state constitution when it was revamped in 1971, would assert the Governor could satisfy this requirement by submitting the names of all felons who were having their voting rights restored without explaining why each person merited the restoration of his or her voting rights on a particularized basis.
Which brings us to the curious case of AE Dick Howard. He supports Governor McAuliffe’s order as being lawful. Howard also has stated that the provision regarding disenfranchising felons “is really the last prop of white supremacy.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/04/22/about-200000-convicted-felons-in-virginia-will-now-have-the-right-to-vote-in-november/
Did Howard forget that he included this provision in the Virginia Constitution? Where was AE Dick Howard in 1971 stating that he was forced to include a provision that was morally repugnant and a vestige of Jim Crow laws? I could find no mention of him making such an assertion during that time. I have no doubt that Howard wasn’t free to completely rewrite the Virginia Constitution from scratch but one would think he would have publicly strenuously objected to the inclusion of provisions which he believed were blatantly racist.
Perhaps he can reply here and let us know what objections he made in 1971.