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Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Granting Felons the Right to Vote: ‘Second Chances Matter’

Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is defending his move to grant 206,000 felons the right to vote, serve on juries, and run for office, saying “second chances matter” for convicted violent criminals and he wants “you to feel good about yourself.”

McAuliffe’s move, called “unprecedented” by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, covers all violent felons, including murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and more.

Delegate Robert B. Bell (R-Albermarle) slammed McAuliffe, telling the Washington Post: “Murder victims don’t get to sit on juries but now the man that killed them will. A murder victim won’t get to vote, but the man who killed them will.”

“First of all, no one should be surprised I did this order,” McAuliffe responded on ABC News to host George Stephanopoulos. “It’s something that I campaigned on and I’ve been working for the restoration rights for the last two years as governor. I’ve already restored the rights of 18,000 individuals, more than the past seven governors combined. So the next natural step after meeting these folks and talking to them is everybody ought to have a second chance.”

McAuliffe demanded to know why anyone would “put walls up” against child abusers, arsonists, drug dealers and burglars who served time.

“Second chances matter,” he continued. “These folks — George, understand they have served their time. They have done their probation and parole. They’re back in society. They’re living in our communities. They have jobs. They’re paying taxes. Why don’t we possibly want them to vote? Why are we putting walls up?”

McAuliffe claimed his move was the latest step forward in a journey that began with freeing slaves during the Civil War. One estimate shows one in five black residents in Virginia has committed a felony and been convicted, and left-leaning critics have long complained that’s a source of racial injustice.

“Once you have paid your debt to society, and that debt was determined by a judge and a jury, once you have finished that, why would you want a lifetime ban? That’s why I stood in front of our capitol and erased a 115 years — we have had some very horrible disenfranchisement of voters in Virginia,” he said. “I stood right in front of that capitol where we had a poll tax, literacy test, disenfranchisement of voters. I stood not 20 yards from where Abraham Lincoln met the freed slaves 151 years ago in April.”

“It was the right thing to do legally, and most importantly George, it wasn’t politics. It was the right thing to do morally,” he added.

McAuliffe told Republicans opposed to his move to “quit complaining” and work to win the criminal vote whose bloc he dramatically expanded.

“Quit complaining and go out and earn these folks the right to vote for you,” he said. “Go out and talk to them.”

“I think some of the language that’s come out of the Republicans — I would tell them to be very careful of how they frame this. Very careful of their rhetoric. They have an opportunity to go out and get these individual new voters to vote for them. But make your argument.”

“I told folks when I ran for governor, I will be a brick wall to protect your rights for women. I will protect the rights of LGBT members, and I’ll do everything I can to get disenfranchised voters enfranchised,” he said.

“It’s exactly what I talked about. Our economy is booming. I just announced a four percent unemployment, biggest budget surplus in Virginia history. We put $1 billion in education. It works when you welcome people back into society and make them feel good about themselves.”

“I’m not giving you your guns rights back. I’m not reducing your sentence. I’m merely saying after you have served your time, and your probation and parole are all over as determined by a judge and jury, I want you to feel good about yourself. I want you voting.”

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