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EDITORIAL: Convince, don’t confuse

Gov. Terry McAuliffe remains steadfast in his quest to restore the voting rights of more than 200,000 ex-felons. Many people in Virginia feel differently.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that McAuliffe didn't have the authority to restore voting rights to 200,000 felons in the state. But in an interview with the Times-Mirror’s Trevor Baratko at the Democratic National Convention, McAuliffe was undeterred. He countered by saying he'll restore the rights one-by-one.

While we appreciate the governor’s enthusiasm for Virginia, as well as his respect for Virginians, we think he’s overreached on the issue of voting rights for felons.

It’s an issue that brought a lawsuit from Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman, who worried that McAuliffe’s order could cause problems in jury selections. Plowman's suit comes after several Freedom of Information Act requests to the governor's office for the names of the restored voters were denied.

As staunch advocates of FOIA and transparency in government, we believe that the denial of opening state records is a bad move. And given the Supreme Court’s ruling, we have to concur that the governor has exceeded the scope of his lawful authority.

Republicans accuse McAuliffe of trying to add more minorities to the voting rolls ahead of the November election to help his friend Hillary Clinton win the critical swing state of Virginia for the Democrats. Nearly 50 percent of those whose rights were restored are black, even though African-Americans make up just about 20 percent of Virginia's population, according to an analysis done by the governor's office.

McAuliffe denies his action is politically motivated, saying he believes that people who served their time deserve a second chance. He touted his action — which was backed by groups like the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP — as a way to help undo the state's long history of trying to prevent African-Americans from fully participating in the democratic process.

We support voting rights for all eligible Virginians. And we encourage citizens to vote for president in the battleground state of Virginia, as well as the swing county of Loudoun.

We worry, though, that Gov. McAuliffe has confused the issue, as well as the electorate, by dancing around an unfavorable decision for him. Fairness in voting rights would be better served by convincing the citizens of Virginia rather than by confusing them.


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