Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin just threw a wrench in Democrats’ extensive get-out-the-vote plans. Last week, Youngkin’s administration sent a letter to state lawmakers saying he would be rescinding his predecessor’s policy of automatically allowing felons to vote. Instead, in accordance with the state constitution, Youngkin will determine whether an ex-convict can obtain voting privileges on an individual basis.
“The Constitution places the responsibility to consider Virginians for restoration in the hands of the Governor and to the Secretary as delegated,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Kay C. James wrote. “After Inauguration, the Governor charged me and our team with ensuring our application and deliberation were legal and fair — that every applicant be considered individually as required by the Constitution and underscored by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2016.”
Under the Virginia Constitution, people with a felony conviction are permanently barred from voting unless the governor or other authority permits them to participate. In 2016, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order allowing more than 200,000 felons to vote once they had completed their sentences. While the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the order, McAuliffe ended up pardoning released felons individually. His successor, Gov. Ralph Northam, did the same but nixed McAuliffe’s requirement that felons must complete their full sentences. As a result, more than 170,000 ex-cons were allowed to vote under McAuliffe and more than 126,000 under Northam.
Under Youngkin, however, the number is smaller. In 2022, about 5,000 released felons were permitted to vote, with about 12,000 people reportedly released from prison in Virginia each year.
“Restoration of rights are assessed on an individual basis according to the law and take into consideration the unique elements of each situation, practicing grace for those who need it and ensuring public safety for our community and families,” Youngkin spokesman Macaulay Porter told Bolts Magazine.
While corporate media outlets and some on the left are decrying Youngkin’s divergence from his predecessors and likening his move to Jim Crow, no one is mentioning that restoring voting privileges to ex-cons is a key plank in Democrats’ get-out-the-vote schemes.
As I’ve previously reported, Democrats are on offense as they prep for the 2024 general election. Drawing on their past success of harvesting low-effort votes and targeting blocs of would-be Democratic voters, activists are pushing to expand automatic voter registration systems and allow felons to vote as well as pre-registering teenagers to vote. Leftists know that adding new people to voter rolls nets thousands more votes for their preferred candidates, possibly pushing them past the finish line in given elections.
“[Democrats] are always looking for new people to bring into the election system and calculating the targeted groups who will be more likely to vote Democratic,” Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project, told me late last year.
It’s no wonder Democrats are pushing so hard for felons to vote. According to a 2019 Ragnar Research study, current “incarcerated felons are more than three times as likely to be registered Democrats (1.7:1) or unaffiliated (1.4:1) than Republicans. Ex-felons are four times as likely to be Democrats (2.7:1) or unaffiliated (1.3:1).”
Of course, the left does not want to give up this bloc of Democratic voters, leading to all sorts of attacks on Youngkin for simply fulfilling his duties under the Virginia Constitution.