McAuliffe: Most former felons with new voting rights are non-violent

Published: May. 12, 2016 at 3:03 AM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2016 at 10:09 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Governor Terry McAuliffe released new data on the convicted felons now allowed to vote in Virginia Wednesday, revealing most of the former inmates are non-violent offenders who have been free for more than a decade.

The move comes nearly three weeks after the governor's historic move, allowing felons who have served their sentences to vote once again. In the past, felons needed to personally petition the governor to restore their voting rights, with Virginia one of four states that imposed a lifetime ban on voting upon conviction.

According to a statistical analysis of the 206,000 felons affected, nearly 80 percent are non-violent offenders. Caucasian voters comprised 51.5 percent of the total, along with 45.9 percent African-American voters.

Republicans plan to challenge the governor's executive action, disputing McAuliffe's assertion that his move is permitted by Virginia's state constitution.

"The delayed, incomplete, and unverified data released by Governor McAuliffe in no way excuses his reckless decision to restore the civil rights of violent offenders and flagrant violation of the Constitution," said House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) in a statement Wednesday.

"We now know that over 40,000 violent felons are now eligible to serve on juries. To call this irrelevant is a direct insult to the victims of these violent crimes."

McAuliffe said offenders have been released from prison for an average of 11.1 years, pay taxes and should not be branded by their crimes for life.

"They are part of our communities, going to the grocery stores each day," McAuliffe said. "Republicans should be more concerned with trying to win their votes, rather than disenfranchising them."

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