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The Backlash Against Expanded Voting Rights in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) holds aloft the order he signed last month restoring voting rights to some 200,000 ex-felons. Republican lawmakers are now threatening to challenge the order in court. (Photo by Michaele White of the governor's office via Flickr.)

Date on which Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order to restore voting rights to people who've completed their felony prison, probation and parole sentences: 4/22/2016

Estimated number of people directly affected by the order: 200,000

Rank of McAuliffe's among the most significant actions a governor has taken to date to address disenfranchisement: 1

Date on which Republican lawmakers in Virginia said they were considering a court challenge, accusing McAuliffe of trying to influence the outcome of the November election: 5/2/2016

Number of votes by which Democrats lost the majority in the Virginia Senate last year, which a McAuliffe spokesperson said is proof the governor's action wasn't driven by electoral politics: 1,500

Before McAuliffe's order, Virginia's ranking among states with the highest rates of felony disenfranchisement: 4

Among states with the highest rates of felony disenfranchisement for African Americans: 3

Number of newly registered voters in Virginia to date who had their rights restored by McAuliffe's action: more than 2,000

In North Carolina, a state demographically similar to Virginia, percent of former felons who registered to vote between 2004 and 2008, when Barack Obama narrowly won the state: 33


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Percent who showed up at the polls in 2008: 21

Applying the North Carolina findings to Virginia, number of new voters expected: 70,000

Number expected to show up to vote: perhaps 40,000

Number of those votes Democrats would likely capture: fewer than 30,000

Number by which Obama carried the state in 2012: 149,000

Percent margin that represents: 3.9

Percent by which presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is projected to carry Virginia against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump: nearly 10

Besides Virginia, number of other states that still disenfranchise all individuals with felony convictions for life, unless they can secure a pardon from the governor: 3*

* Florida, Iowa, and Kentucky.

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the Director and regular contributor to the Institute for Southern Study's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

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