RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — More than 200,000 convicted felons will be eligible to vote and run for public office in Virginia under a sweeping executive order announced Friday by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe said his actions would help undo Virginia's long history of trying to suppress the black vote.
He said he was certain he had the legal authority for the massive extension of voting rights, adding that he'd consulted with legal and constitutional experts, including Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
"Too often in both our distant and recent history, politicians have used their authority to restrict people's ability to participate in our democracy," McAuliffe said in a statement. "Today we are reversing that disturbing trend and restoring the rights of more than 200,000 of our fellow Virginians who work, raise families and pay taxes in every corner of our Commonwealth."
McAuliffe has made the restoration of rights of former convicts a priority of his administration. Before Friday's order, the administration had restored the rights of more than 18,000 felons, which officials said is more than the past seven governors combined.