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The Right Note: A Right to be Protected

by Mark Kelly September 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Two weeks ago, Paul Friedman wrote a piece on ARLnow claiming Democrats believe voting is a right and Republicans believe it is a privilege. The none-too-veiled suggestion was Republicans were somehow OK with limiting the rights of Democrats, or worse yet, on the basis of race.

Republicans believe voting is a right firmly rooted in the rule of law.

There are clear conditions you must meet to vote. You must be 18. You must be a citizen of our country. You cannot vote in two states in the same election. And in Virginia, you cannot vote if you committed a felony unless your voting rights have been affirmatively restored.

The Supreme Court found that Gov. Terry McAuliffe violated the Virginia Constitution when he issued the blanket order restoring voting rights to all felons who completed their sentence. Unfortunately, what Friedman appears to be arguing is it may just be OK for our governor to circumvent a provision in the Constitution because it achieves a desired outcome. Imagine Friedman’s outrage if a Republican governor were to do so in order to achieve a desired policy objective?

The bottom line is allowing a governor to unilaterally ignore the Virginia Constitution would be a dangerous precedent to set. It was rightly overturned by the court.

What was also missing from Friedman’s analysis was what happens to the rights of other voters when someone who should not be able to cast a vote in Virginia is allowed to. When just one person who is committing voter fraud — or is registered for any other invalid reason shows up the polls — it limits your rights by devaluing your vote.

Because voting is a right, it is meant to be protected. It should not be subject to the whims of an elected official. It should not be devalued by voter fraud.

What McAuliffe should have done was work with legislative leaders to find a process within the law to restore voting rights more easily. Many Republicans, including this one, support such a change, particularly when it comes to non-violent offenders.

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