“I’ve worked very closely with Governor McAuliffe. It’s one of our greatest feats.”
— Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam
Re: McAuliffe’s automatic restoration of rights for felons
IBEW Virginia Governor’s Debate, 25 May 2017
You will want to sit down for this one.
I consider myself a rather jaded observer of Virginia politics. Rarely if ever have I winced at an ad that actually struck me as an “oh my God” moment.
Obviously, Gillespie could have narrowed this down to a 30 second hit piece. Instead, Gillespie did something truly rare (and monetarily expensive) in Virginia politics, taking a full minute of valuable air time to explain the McAuliffe-Northam “restoration of rights” policy — and who fell through the cracks.
The results are shocking. Rarely have I been so moved by an advertisement; rarely after I dug into the facts surrounding the case have I been more angered.
When the policy was first instituted, McAuliffe decided that an independent review of each felon was too slow a process. So rather than auditing each felon and restoring rights on the basis of merit, McAuliffe decided upon a policy of mass release — doing by autopen what a Virginia governor ought to do by consultation and careful advisement.
Who slipped through the cracks?
Meet John Bowen, a sex offender who had his voting rights restored by McAuliffe and Northam just two months after he was convicted for 15 years in prison for possessing one of the largest child pornography collections in Virginia history — literally 1.7 million instances.
Forty three prosecutors begged Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe to reverse this policy according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In the article itself, prosecutors from both sides of the aisle begged McAuliffe to reconsider and implement a more stringent and considerate process. The response?
“The administration of doing the right thing can be difficult at times, but that should be no excuse for marginalizing hundreds of thousands of Virginians,” Coy said.
Do you want John Bowen serving on a jury? Neither do I.
The problem is that Bowen is not an isolated case. There are dozens of Bowens who have had their rights restored, all of whom now have the ability to vote, sit on jury trials, possess firearms, and participate in the very same society they victimized.
Gillespie’s approach is no effort to demonize felons, which is the remarkable part of this advertisement. Again, Gillespie could very well have simply run the first half of this ad and hammered McAuliffe and Northam for their risky and rushed policies.
Instead, Gillespie took a very different tack — rather than victimize the group, Gillespie merely insists that there is a right way and a wrong way to process the restoration of rights for convicted felons. The vast majority? No problem… but for people like John Bowen?
That troubles me greatly.