First, Virginia Republicans back in March kicked a superbly-qualified woman – Jane Roush – off the Virginia State Supreme Court and replace her with a Ken Cuccinelli endorsee (Stephen McCullough).
The Virginia General Assembly elected Court of Appeals Judge Stephen R. McCullough to the Supreme Court of Virginia on Thursday, ending a seven-month political standoff with Gov. Terry McAuliffe over a vacancy on the high court.
McCullough’s election to a 12-year term effectively, if not amicably, resolves a bitter, partisan power struggle over a vacancy on the seven-member court that began when Republican lawmakers refused to renew McAuliffe’s interim appointment of Justice Jane Marum Roush.
And now, Virginia Republicans have received their “reward,” a ruling by the now-more-conservative State Supreme Court striking down “executive orders issued by Gov. Terry McAuliffe that would have allowed more than 200,000 felons to register to vote and participate in the November presidential election.” To read this ridiculous, partisan 4-3 decision, click here. Why “ridiculous?” Because the Virginia constitution plainly and explicitly grants the governor the authority “to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction” for felonies. Period. That’s the plain language, which conservatives always claim to care about, except when they want to do things like prevent people from voting.
Speaking of which, that’s exactly what Republicans were up to here, and exactly what they’re celebrating: making it as hard as possible for people to vote. As Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano tweeted a few minutes ago, “Tonight,
@VAHouseGOP is celebrating stripping 206,000+ Virginians of their voting rights.” And as reporter Graham Moomaw tweeted, “Supreme Court decision striking McAuliffe order means 11.6K felons will have registrations cancelled by Aug. 25.” Great, huh?
So how did Republicans react? Take a guess! Here are a few:
- Trump state chair Corey Stewart: “The Virginia Supreme Court voted down, in a 4-3 decision, our lawless Governor’s sweeping unconstitutional order to restore rights to all felons. His attempt to use his office for political purpose was blocked further proving the importance of having judges who respect the constitution.”
- Virginia State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) and Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell (R-ALEC): “The Supreme Court of Virginia delivered a major victory for the Constitution, the rule of law and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
- Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10th): “Gov. McAuliffe’s unconstitutional blanket felon voting restoration E.O. struck down by the VA S.C.”
Getting the picture here? That’s right; Virginia Republicans are celebrating the fact that they: a) rammed a right winger onto the State Supreme Court; b) then watched as that Supreme Court ignored the plain language of the state constitution in order to deprive a lot of Virginians of their right to vote.
So now what? Let’s hope that Virginia Attorney Lloyd Snook’s analysis is correct:
As I read Chief Justice Lemons’ opinion, if Terry were to print a list — even 10,000 at a time — he would be OK. The court seemed generally chagrined in oral argument that the Governor wouldn’t or couldn’t produce a list of the 206,000. I think that was the fatal flaw in the Governor’s case. From page 11 —
That said, we emphasize that our standing conclusion rests heavily on the unprecedented circumstances of this case. The sweeping scope of the Executive Orders precludes any assertion that its vote-dilution effect should be dismissed as de minimis. The strength of this point is compounded by the fact that the Executive Orders identify none of the 206,000 felons by name, and, to date, Governor McAuliffe has withheld “the administration’s list of felons whose rights were restored” under the Executive Orders.
If this analysis is correct, which hopefully it is, then perhaps Virginia Republicans’ celebration will prove short-lived. Also note Gov. McAuliffe’s vow that if the Supreme Court struck down his restoration of voting rights order, he would “fire up my auto pen, and I will send out 206,000 letters restoring their rights.” Do it!