• 73°

Cal Thomas: The felon vote

Thanks to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) 200,000 convicted felons in the state of Virginia may now register to vote.

Writes The Washington Post, “The change applies to all felons who have completed their sentences and been released from supervised probation or parole. The Democratic governor’s decision particularly affects black residents of Virginia: 1 in 4 African Americans in the state has been permanently banned from voting because of laws restricting the rights of those with convictions.”

McAuliffe’s executive order also allows felons, including rapists and murderers, to run for public office, serve on a jury and become a notary public. I can just visualize the campaign slogan now: “Vote for me. I’ve already done time.”

Republicans are outraged, of course. Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell said: “The singular purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton president of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet.” It’s an accusation McAuliffe vehemently denies.

Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Proud of my friend (at)GovernorVA for continuing to break down barriers to voting. — H.”

After many years as a Republican, or red state, Virginia more recently has become a swing state and important to Democrats for winning the presidency. Just as former slaves in Virginia and elsewhere were loyal to Republicans for many years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation it is likely that many of these felons will become reliable Democratic voters. Maybe Democrats will next figure out a way to hand illegal immigrants crossing our southern border the right to vote.

McAuliffe, a prolific fundraiser for the Clintons, appears to be as loyal to them as a family’s faithful golden retriever. He has raised millions for them and for the Democratic National Committee. For a good account of McAuliffe’s fundraising antics and other financial dealings, visit the website counterpunch.org.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “In 38 states and the District of Columbia, most ex-felons automatically gain the right to vote upon the completion of their sentence.” In liberal Maine and Vermont, convicted felons may cast their ballots while in prison and are never disenfranchised. Most states require ex-convicts to apply to have their voting rights restored. Many factors go into the decision, including the nature of the crime. It is not always automatic.

In his book “The Virginia Constitution,” John J. Dinan writes: “Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement provision … has been challenged in several cases, but sustained in each instance.” In 1982, Virginia voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have allowed convicted felons to vote. In 2004, notes Dinan, a constitutional amendment to automatically restore felons’ voting rights after the completion of their sentences “was considered by the General Assembly, but failed to achieve a majority in either the House or Senate.”

Societies going back to Greek and Roman times have disenfranchised convicted criminals, because they regarded such actions as part of their punishment. There was also a sense that not allowing felons to vote might, when combined with other punishment, serve as a deterrent to crime.

Republicans have long accused Democrats of election shenanigans. i.e., Mickey Mouse’s name showing up on registration lists, voters giving nonexistent addresses, some voting more than once. And let’s not forget what I call the “cemetery vote,” or the ultimate absentee ballot.

In an interview following McAuliffe’s announcement, Speaker Howell suggested legal action might be taken. There isn’t much time between now and November and the Republican majority legislature is not even in session. Legal action would be difficult.

If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and the votes of Virginia felons prove decisive, cheating and voter cynicism will plunge to new depths. Most people probably think politics can’t get any dirtier. McAuliffe’s action shows they are wrong.

Email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.


East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day


In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising


From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community


In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help


Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system


School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures


Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice


Republicans rally supporters at Saturday lunch


Budd holds wide lead over Huffman in fundraising, cash on hand


UPDATED: 1 shot, 5 in custody after shooting at haunted house that attracted 1,000 visitors


Trump picks conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill Supreme Court seat


Deadly September propels Rowan County to 100 deaths from COVID-19


Highway Patrol charges man in hit-and-run after finding vehicle hidden in woods


NC elections board, Republicans at odds over absentee ballot rule changes


Voters struggling with witness rules in early voting


Trump expected to announce conservative Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court


County reports COVID-19 percent positive rate of 8%


Rowan County United Way sets $1.5 million goal at drive-in kickoff event


Blotter: Adult daughters accused of beating up mother

China Grove

China Grove firefighters injured after truck overturns


Salisbury VA to reopen entry, exit gates


Sheriff’s Office looking for suspect in Burlington Coat Factory theft


Requests for absentee ballots top 9,000 in Rowan


Spencer approves supplemental USDA loan for Park Plaza project