RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) announced Monday that House and Senate Republicans have retained an attorney to challenge Governor Terence R. McAuliffe’s order which restored the civil rights of over 206,000 convicted felons.
Governor McAuliffe signed the executive order about two weeks ago and Republicans called that move an overreach of power. They said the governor doesn’t have the constitutional power to grant blanket restorations and he has “exceeded the powers granted to him by the Constitution of Virginia.”
Virginia Republicans also said that McAuliffe plans to influence the November election by restoring the voting rights of ex-felons.
Brian Coy, with the governor’s office, issued a statement regarding the lawsuit:
Last month Governor McAuliffe acted on his constitutional authority to restore the civil and voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Virginians and bring our Commonwealth into line with 40 other states. The Governor is disappointed that Republicans would go to such lengths to continue locking people who have served their time out of their democracy. While Republicans may have found a Washington lawyer for their political lawsuit, they still have yet to articulate any specific constitutional objections to the Governor exercising a power that Article V Section 12 clearly grants him. These Virginians are qualified to vote and they deserve a voice, not more partisan schemes to disenfranchise them.
The GOP has retained Attorney Charles J. Cooper to challenge the governor’s order. They said that taxpayer money will not be used for the lawsuit.
Mr. Cooper has over 35 years of public and private practice experience. He was an Assistant Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan and he has argued cases before the United States Supreme Court. The National Law Journal named Mr. Cooper one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington.