Lawmakers debate felon voting rights restoration

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Republican lawmakers says Governor Terry McAuliffe went beyond his duties when he restored the rights of ex-felons in Virginia. They add the people who are getting hurt the most are the victims of the former felons.

However, Democratic lawmakers says that is not fair, if a felon has served his or her time.

Democrat Delegate David Toscano and Republican Delegate Steve Landes were at a Senior Statesmen of Virginia meeting Wednesday.

During the meeting, there was hesitant clapping after voter right restoration was mentioned to the crowd.

"This is about the recognition the governor had that the process we had in place was overly cumbersome and it doesn't restore people's right to vote fast enough," said Toscano from the 57th District.

Earlier in the year, McAuliffe restored the right to vote for some 200,000 ex-felons in the Commonwealth.

But Virginia Republican lawmakers do not think it was the right move.

"The problem is with the violent offenders," said Landes from the 25th District. "We may have individuals coming out and having their rights restored, even though they have not paid their debts to society, which would be to the victims of their crimes, their serious crimes, or the courts costs and the like. And that's just not fair."

Republican lawmakers think it is not fair that some felons, who may still owe money for their crimes but have finished serving their time, can get the right to vote restored.

Democratic lawmakers say that standard is not fair on the part of Republican lawmakers.

"Governors from Warner to Kaine to McDonnell have recognized that it's a good thing to give people their rights back after they have paid their debt to society. And McAuliffe has simply accelerated the progress," explained Toscano.

But the idea that McAuliffe accelerate the process is another point of contention among state lawmakers.

Republican lawmakers says McAuliffe's executive order to restore voting rights went too far.

"What the governor is doing is basically circumventing what the judicial branch has said: these people will pay this, this is part of their fine and this is part of their sentence," said Landes.

He says many Republican lawmakers say they feel what McAuliffe did was unconstitutional in Virginia. But Democratic lawmakers have responded that the GOP should read Virginia's constitution.

"You have to start by reading the constitution, and if you read the constitution, it says the governor has full and sweeping power to restore people's rights," said Toscano.

Both sides of the aisle did agree that it is important that people who have served their time get the right to vote restored.

Of the more than 200,000 ex-felons who have had their voting rights restored, only about 2,000 have registered to vote in Virginia.

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