Civil Rights Group Decries Attack on Voting Rights in Virginia

A Virginia-based civil rights group lambasted Republican efforts to stall Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push to restore voting rights to certain citizens, calling the GOP’s push “racist” and little more than a political ploy.

The General Assembly Republicans of Virginia announced Wednesday they are asking the state Supreme Court to hold the McAuliffe administration in contempt for defying a court decision that nullified an executive order restoring the rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons who have already served their time in prison.

New Virginia Majority and Advancement Project, a grass-roots multiracial civil rights organization, said the GOP’s action is an “attempt to steal democracy from communities of color.”

“For opponents of the right to vote, this is less about legal theory than it is about politics — it is yet another desperate attempt to amass political power by keeping racist laws and traditions alive,” said Tram Nguyen, the organization’s co-executive director. “The disenfranchisement of people who have already served sentences for prior mistakes is an outdated, discriminatory vestige of our nation’s Jim Crow past. There is no place for honoring Jim Crow laws like this in Virginia, and certainly not in our legislature.”

Edward A. Hailes Jr., general counsel and managing director for Advancement Project’s national office, agreed.

“No adult citizen should be deprived of their fundamental right to vote,” he said. “Through Governor McAuliffe’s process, the fundamental right to vote has been restored for thousands of Virginians who have repaid their debt to society. Rather than expressing contempt for their right to vote and embracing a law passed with discriminatory intent, the General Assembly should be asking itself how to restore the rights of the almost 200,000 Virginians who are excited about participating in our democracy.

“It is time to leave the vestiges of racism where they belong: in the past,” Hailes said. “We hope the Supreme Court swiftly dismisses the General Assembly’s audacious political maneuver so that order can resume in the fair, compassionate, nondiscriminatory, and constitutional process Governor McAuliffe has established in compliance with the court’s previous instructions.”

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