Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

From today’s New York Times:

After George Hawkins completed a 13-year term in a Virginia prison for attempted murder, he asked the state last spring to restore his right to vote. So far, the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has unfettered discretion over such requests, has twice turned him down with almost no explanation.

Governor Youngkin’s authority is enshrined in Virginia’s State Constitution. But now a lawsuit filed by the Fair Elections Center, a Washington, D.C.-based voting rights organization, argues that the federal Constitution limits that power.

The suit, in federal District Court in Richmond, claims that the First Amendment bars Governor Youngkin, a Republican, from arbitrarily silencing Mr. Hawkins’s voice in political affairs. Instead, it calls for Virginia to set rules governing decisions on restoring voting rights.

Otherwise, the lawsuit says, governors could say their rulings on voting rights were impartial, “while secretly basing their decision on information — or informed speculation — on the applicant’s political affiliations or views.”

Last week, U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney allowed the case to proceed, putting off a decision on whether state rules on granting clemency are subject to judicial review until after hearings early next year.

The stakes are potentially large in the Virginia suit and a similar one in Kentucky. (A third state, Iowa, also vests power over voting in the governor but is not being sued because an executive order restores the right to former prisoners who have completed their sentences.)

Read the complete story here.

By Editor