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The Saga of Felon Voting in Virginia

Governor Terry McAuliffe is determined to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of Virginians with felony records. It appears he will get his way prior to Election Day.

He first attempted to do so in April, when he announced a blanket order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 felons, saying, “There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it.”

Republicans said that the governor was overstepping his constitutional powers. Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment said, “Gov. McAuliffe's flagrant disregard for the Constitution of Virginia and the rule of law must not go unchecked.” By a 4-3 vote, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with the Republicans and invalidated the governor’s action.

That did not deter Governor McAuliffe, however. He vowed to restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis to comply with the court decision. He is in the process of doing that, already restoring rights for 13,000 individuals.

Some Republicans claim the governor is playing politics by focusing efforts on felons who primarily live in Democratic areas of the commonwealth. Supporters of Governor McAuliffe point out that the man who preceded McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion, Republican Bob McDonnell, also restored the voting rights of some felons.

If McAuliffe were governor in most other states, this would not be an issue. Virginia is one of only 9 states that do not grant felons voting rights. Most states restore voting rights to felons after they serve their sentences. Some restore these rights to felons even while they are on probation or parole. Two states, Maine and Vermont, even allow prisoners to vote.

What do you think? Should felons be able to vote?

A New Attorney General for Pennsylvania

The tumultuous tenure of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane came to an end on August 16. She resigned from office following her conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice. Governor Tom Wolf has nominated Bruce Beemer to replace her.

Kane was charged in August 2015 with felony perjury and other charges. The charges stemmed from Kane’s leaking of grand jury testimony in an attempt to smear a rival prosecutor. This prosecutor had alleged that Kane shut down an investigation of Democratic elected officials for political reasons. Kane leaked confidential grand jury testimony to embarrass that prosecutor, then lied about the leak under oath and conspired with others to impede the investigation.

Kane’s resignation comes after a long refusal to give up the office. Governor Wolf and others had called upon her to resign, but Kane vowed to stay in office and fight the charges. A state Senate resolution directing the governor to remove her from office failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote, although it did receive support from a majority of senators. The state House voted to open an impeachment investigation in February. Even though Kane has resigned, the impeachment investigation will continue.

The state Senate must confirm Gov. Wolf’s nomination of Bruce Beemer, the current inspector general for the commonwealth. Given Republican leadership’s support for Beemer, it seems that he will obtain the necessary two-thirds supermajority vote to become the state’s next attorney general.

House returns to resume a bitter fight over gun control

Congress will be taking up gun control this week. Do you support banning people placed on certain government lists, but who have not been arrested or even charged with a crime, from being able to purchase firearms?

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