McAuliffe restores voting rights for 206K ex-felons; GOP calls it move to boost Clinton

How are we better than the people who violated the laws, if we violate the laws to release them?

Anytime any politician uses his office and the timing of his official action to directly and unilaterally benefit a particular candidate during an election season raises the question not just of unconstitutionality but of misuse of the authority of his office; especially where it is clear no authority heretofore exists to act unilaterally. The otherwise genuine objectives and purposes of the unilateral action do not help the politician who has had every opportunity in his prior years of office to do the very thing he chooses to do now at the height of an election season.

Ever so important here to the motives of this unilateral action is the complete bypass of a system of safeguards and protections designed to assure, as in this case, that those who have paid their debt to society, have in fact “paid their debt to society” and have fulfilled any other requirements designed for their safety as well as the safety of the community.

It should not matter that this is yet another example in point (of so many bad examples) where an executive does not get along with the legislature, and feels committed to bypassing them and passing his own laws rather than insisting the legislature to do its job, especially in an area of Restoration of Rights so long overdue. However, the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia (which must mean something) speak quite clearly to the fact that it is the legislature that makes the laws, and the executive branch that enforces the laws. Any deviation from that, particularly while the legislature is in session or may readily be convened, is outside of the respective Constitution, and therefore unconstitutional. Prior examples which are themselves unconstitutional are not controlling.

When the General Assembly does not act on Restoration of Rights, as it should (and long before now), and a Governor fails in his job (and campaign promise) to finds ways to work with that General Assembly, then we see this type of extraordinary executive order whose effect is not just unconstitutional, not just partisan, but amounts to a special action with the obvious effect that will help but one candidate in a general election by restoring rights to 206,000 felons.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and its formation of government is our construct and foundation. The ultimate question is not whether felons who have paid their debt to society should be released, but whether we are going to insist that our legislature do their job within the law or whether, the Constitution of Virginia be damned, we violate the Constitution and release them. Under this analysis, how is any Governor any better than the people he releases if he will not follow the Constitution?

Chuck Smith

Related posts