Darkness in Virginia

To increase the number of Democratic voters in his state, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe gave the right to vote to 206,000 convicted felons. He did so by executive order in 2016.

The order encompassed violent felons and those who had not paid court costs or made restitution to their victims. It also restored the voting rights of 132 sex offenders still in custody and to several convicted killers in other states. In addition to regaining access to the voting booth, the convicted felons also gained the right to serve on juries.

The Supreme Court of Virginia struck down McAuliffe’s blanket order. The governor is now in the process of granting voting rights to felons through case-by-case determinations.

In the meantime, the Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman sought the list of felons who were to receive the benefits of McAuliffe’s order. For a year, McAuliffe resisted. He had no legal basis for doing so. He simply desired secrecy so as to avoid further embarrassment.

Finally, after Plowman sued the governor, he agreed to turn over the list. In an understatement, Plowman said: “It seems a bit unreasonable that you have to actually file a lawsuit to get something that people should have everyday access to.”

Plowman is right. If “democracy dies in darkness,” then Terry McAuliffe is making his small contribution to its demise.