RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For almost his entire career, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been opposed to the idea of creating an easier path for non-violent ex-felons to have their right to vote restored.
But today- the candidate for governor revealed the results of a study on the issue, and said he now supports reforming the process.
Democrats are calling the move an election year stunt.
After years of resisting changes to the process, Cuccinelli now concede the process needs to be improved.
Cuccinelli argued in favor of Governor McDonnell's constitutional amendment during the last legislative session and supported the governor's reform plans as far back as 2010.
"We need a simpler way for those individuals who want to return to their place in society," the Attorney General announced in a press conference revealing the results of the study.
Cuccinelli believes a sitting governor cannot issue a blanket executive order automatically restoring rights. He also believes the General Assembly cannot just pass a law allowing the automatic change. He believes it requires an amendment to the constitution, something the legislature has consistently rejected.
The ACLU of Virginia rejected Cuccinelli's premise. Arguing the committee didn't examine the executive order process close enough.
"There are many other ways that an executive order can be crafted to preserve the Governor's discretionary role and make appropriate administrative and policy distinctions," said ACLU Executive Director Claire G. Gastañaga.
Instead, Cuccinelli suggested a department specifically tasked with reviewing the cases and putting them in front of the governor for speedy resolution.
"I am looking for ways to make re-entry work," he said.
It's a concept Democrats say is too little too late
"If this issue were actually important to the Attorney General he would not have waited more than three years to form a commission to explore it and make recommendations," said State Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico)
McEachin is a longtime advocate of reform of the process argues Cuccinelli is trying to score cheap political points and by extension is proposing a new layer of bureaucratic burden.
"I don't see either giving this job to a state agency or a different state agency or creating a state agency, advancing the ball at all," he said.
Cuccinelli argues that his evolution on the topic is genuine. His ultimate goal- to help someone who has committed a crime become a productive member of the community.
"I think is part of a much broader approach that we should have as a society," he said.
It is possible Governor Bob McDonnell has already taken Cuccinelli's recommendations to heart. He will announce a new plan to deal with rights restoration tomorrow afternoon.
You can read more about how this move by Cuccinelli impacts the race for Governor on DecisionVirginia.com.