The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Republican bid to have Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe held in contempt for his continued effort to restore voting rights to about 206,000 felons.
McAuliffe’s efforts to restore voting rights to felons is seen as a possible aid in tipping Virginia, a swing state in the Nov. 8 presidential election, toward Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Opinion polls show her leading Republican candidate Donald Trump in the state.
Republican legislative leaders this month filed a contempt motion against McAuliffe. It came after McAuliffe said he had restored voting rights to almost 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis after the state Supreme Court blocked his blanket clemency effort.
In a statement, McAuliffe said he was pleased by the court’s decision. “Restoring these Virginians’ civil rights is morally the right thing to do,” he said.
McAuliffe has said his original order would move Virginia away from lifetime disenfranchisement that hits African-Americans particularly hard.
Many of the convicts who benefited were African-Americans or Latinos, two groups that have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the past. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won Virginia in 2012 and 2008.
The Clinton’s and McAuliffe are very close. In 1999, when the Clintons tried to buy a home in Chappaqua, N.Y., to establish residency for Hillary’s Senate campaign, they had so much legal debt they could not secure a mortgage. So McAuliffe put up $1.35 million of his own money as collateral on their loan. He was repaid once the Clintons obtained a conventional mortgage.