Republican leaders in the General Assembly slammed the order.
“With this action, what scant civility remains between the General Assembly and this governor has been stretched to the breaking point,” Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment said.
House Speaker Bill Howell said he was “stunned” at the broad use of executive power that simply serves to help “deliver Virginia to Hillary Clinton in November,” but acknowledged that felons should have the chance to have their rights restored.
Republican leaders cite a 2010 legal opinion within Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration that found this type of blanket restoration of rights would be rewriting how Virginia had handled the restoration of rights in the past.
McAuliffe led Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and has been a long-time Clinton ally. Shetweeted her support for the move Friday afternoon.
Democrats back the move as a way to ensure those who have paid their debt to society are allowed to fully reenter the community, especially since many those impacted by the order are believed to be members of minority groups.
“This is a life-changing day for hundreds of thousands of Virginians who will once again have a voice,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.
“In restoring the rights of our fellow citizens who have long ago served their sentence, Gov. McAuliffe is turning a page, providing hope, and empowering hundreds of thousands of Virginians who have been disenfranchised for far too long,” the statement says.