According to a recent editorial in The Washington Post, when Virginia rewrote its constitution in 1902 and banned felons from voting, that ban was motivated by racists who wanted to help assure white supremacy and eliminate “darkies” as a political factor in Virginia.
Now, more than a century later, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has employed his executive authority to reinstate voting rights to more than 200,000 felons who have completed their prison sentences and finished any parole and probation obligations. He did so over adamant Republican opposition.
If our penal policies are intended to rehabilitate and not merely to punish, doesn’t McAuliffe’s executive action make sense? Why should someone who possibly made only a single mistake, and paid his debt to society long ago, be indelibly denied the right to rejoin society as a participating voter in matters of governmental affairs? Why should they lose their right to vote . . . in perpetuity?
So, hasn’t McAuliffe got this right? Isn’t this a no brainer? Why would Republicans be against this “obviously” enlightened step in the right direction?
Let’s look just a little bit deeper. I keep asking if McAuliffe hasn’t got this right. Maybe what McAuliffe has got here is . . . left, not right.
According to those who track such matters, most former inmates vote Democratic. In addition, the substantial majority of those 200,000 Virginia felons to whom McAuliffe is returning their vote are black. Certainly, as between Clinton and Sanders in this year’s battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, blacks have overwhelmingly voted for Clinton.
If just 15% of those 200,000 Virginia felons register and cast their ballots for Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee in the upcoming presidential election (studies estimate that 15% is actually conservative—meaning liberal—this political stuff is just so confusing!), that would generate an extra 0.8 percentage point vote for Clinton. In the last two presidential elections, three states were reportedly decided by margins smaller than 0.8 points.
As the old political adage goes: “Change is most likely to come when it benefits those with the power to make it a reality.” Virginia reportedly will be a swing state in the upcoming presidential election. McAuliffe and Clinton are long time close Democratic buddies. McAuliffe’s sense of right and wrong (or should we say left and right?) could have huge beneficial ramifications for Clinton. And, no doubt, sooner or later, for McAuliffe too.
You scratch my back and . . . .
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