Governor Glenn Youngkin just gave himself a lot more power to pick and choose Virginia voters. The Republican governor’s administration told state lawmakers in a letter last week that he was rescinding his predecessors’ policy of automatically restoring the voting rights of people with felony convictions.
Going forward, Virginians will no longer regain their rights when released from prison—the most recent policy announced by Virginia officials in 2021—nor at any later point, unless Youngkin deems them to be worthy on an individual basis.
His decision, which a future governor could alter, sidelines many residents who expected they would get to vote in Virginia elections.
“I’ve never voted in my life. I was looking forward to voting this year,” Sincere Allah, who was released from prison the week Youngkin was inaugurated in 2022 and who has since waited to learn if his rights will be restored, told Bolts, in reference to the state’s upcoming legislative and prosecutorial elections. “I can pay taxes, I can be held to the same standard as everyone else when it comes to laws and rules and regulations, but I have no say-so or representation.”
Youngkin’s announcement also puts Virginia in a category all its own: It is the only state where someone who is convicted today over any felony is presumed to be barred from voting for life, with no remedy other than receiving a discretionary act of clemency from the governor.
Virginia’s constitution permanently disenfranchises people with a felony conviction. Only Iowa and Kentucky have such a harsh rule on the books—other states with a lifetime ban, like Mississippi, do not apply it to all felonies—but their sitting governors have each issued executive orders that automatically restore at least some people’s voting rights upon completion of their sentences.
For much of the last decade, Virginia governors adopted a similar approach, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to regain the franchise. Anyone whose rights have already been restored will retain the ability to vote. But for others, Youngkin has now rolled back those reforms.
“We are back to 1902-era policy,” Democratic state Senator Scott Surovell tweeted last week after Youngkin’s administration notified him of the change, in reference to the 1902 convention that designed Virginia’s disenfranchisement system with the explicit goal of disenfranchising Black residents: “discrimination within the letter of the law,” as one delegate termed it. That legacy lived on; as recently as 2016, 22 percent of Black Virginians were barred from voting.
“This language in our constitution is from extraordinarily dark origins,” Surovell told Bolts in a follow-up. “I thought we’d settled this debate over the past twelve years of reform, but apparently… anything’s on the table.”
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Curtain RAISES. Gunmerica.
"When babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers. Remind our lawmakers of the words of the British statesman Edmund Burke: 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.'"— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) March 28, 2023
-- Senate @Chaplain_Black #Nashvile pic.twitter.com/7nP11shNmR
REPORTER: "What else should be done to protect people like your little girl?"— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) March 28, 2023
BURCHETT: "Well, we homeschool her." pic.twitter.com/BTKEfkKbUM
One crosstab I want to highlight here -- the share of Americans who say that, growing up, they were at least somewhat worried about a mass shooting at their school.— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) July 20, 2022
By age group;
The Manhattan grand jury weighing evidence about Donald J. Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star heard testimony on Monday from a crucial witness, but there was no sign an indictment had been filed, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The witness, David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, also testified in January. Since the grand jury was impaneled early this year by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, it has heard from at least nine witnesses — including Mr. Pecker, who has now appeared twice — and is expected to vote on an indictment soon.
It is unclear whether the grand jury took any action on Monday, but one of the people with knowledge of the matter said it had not voted on an indictment. Grand juries operate in secret, leaving the timing of indictments something of a mystery.
Mr. Pecker was a key player in the hush-money episode. He and the tabloid’s top editor helped broker the deal between the porn star, Stormy Daniels, and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s fixer at the time.
Ever since Mr. Trump predicted his arrest a little more than a week ago, all eyes have turned to the grand jury.
And while the grand jurors could vote to indict the former president as soon as this week — in what would be the culmination of a nearly five-year investigation — the exact timing is subject to the quirks of the grand jury process in Manhattan, which include scheduling conflicts and other potential interruptions.
This particular grand jury meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, though it typically has not heard evidence related to the Trump investigation on Thursdays. The panel does not have to meet on each of those days, but only convenes when Mr. Bragg’s office summons the jurors.
The timing of an indictment might also depend on the jurors’ availability. Sixteen of the 23 grand jurors must be present to conduct any business (and a majority must vote to indict for the case to go forward). For the prosecutors to seek a vote to indict, the jurors in attendance that day must previously have heard all key witness testimony.
The prospect of an indictment has raised a number of questions about the contours of the potential case facing Mr. Trump, who would become the first former American president to be indicted.
Mr. Bragg's prosecutors are focused on the $130,000 payment to Ms. Daniels, who agreed to keep quiet about her story of an affair with Mr. Trump in exchange for the payoff. Mr. Cohen made the payment during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
In recent weeks, Mr. Bragg’s office signaled to Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the former president could face criminal charges by offering him the chance to testify before the grand jury, people with knowledge of the matter have said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is near; it would be unusual for prosecutors to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him.
In New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in front of the grand jury before they are indicted, but they rarely testify, and Mr. Trump declined the offer.
Prosecutors have now questioned almost every major player in the hush-money episode, again suggesting that the district attorney’s presentation is nearing an end.