Since our blog post in May addressing Governor McAuliffe’s sweeping order that granted political rights to over 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia, quite a bit has happened. Due to the political ramifications of the order, a suit was brought contending the constitutionality of the Governor’s order. Subsequently, that suit was heard by the Supreme Court of Virginia and struck down as unconstitutional by a 4-3 tally. Virginia’s high court found that Governor McAuliffe’s order was unconstitutional, maintaining that the Commonwealth’s governing document does not grant the Commonwealth’s Chief Executive the power to grant blanket, group pardons. As a consequence of the ruling, the Court ordered the Virginia Department of Elections to remove over 13,000 individuals who had registered under the original April 22 order from the voting rolls.
After being granted their political rights under the April 22nd order, many affected citizens also chose to pursue the restoration of their firearm rights. In some cases, those rights were given back prior to the July 22nd Supreme Court ruling, while other cases were still pending when the ruling came down. This created a quandary for all parties involved. Would the firearm rights that were restored while the original order was valid be recognized? Would the pending cases be tossed out now that the political rights of the petitioners had been ruled invalid? Would grantees and pending petitioners all have to start the petition process over once their rights were re-granted?
Today, some of those questions were answered as Governor McAuliffe announced that he has restored the rights of the 13,000 individuals who registered to vote under his orignial order on a case-by-case basis. Per the announcement, each of the 13,000 people who had registered to vote was mailed an individual letter on Friday indicating that their rights had been restored after a review. For pending petitions for restoration of firearm rights, this is momentous news as it once again makes the petitioners’ pleadings whole. In theory, once their court dates arrive the cases should be ripe, allowing the courts to make final rulings on the petitions. For the individuals whose firearm rights were restored while the case was pending in the Supreme Court, this should help re-establish the validity of their previously granted orders. While the final results are yet to be seen, the Governor’s actions should prevent numerous petitioners from having to start from scratch in their quest to have their Virginia firearm rights restored.