RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday he believes four conservative Virginia justices were "scared" to side against Republican leaders in the court's recent opinion on felon voting rights.
In a 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled last month that the governor overstepped his authority when he restored the voting rights of 13,000 felons who had been stripped from the voter rolls.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, blasted that ruling during an appearance on a WIQO-FM radio show, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/2aYNhZW).
McAuliffe called the opinion "almost unfathomable" and said that four conservative justices were "scared" to go against Republican politicians, since the General Assembly decides who serves on the court.
"They were sued by the speaker and the Senate leader, who appoint them to the bench, were scared and wrote an opinion that absolutely makes no sense," McAuliffe said on "Lynchburg's Morning Show With Mari and Brian."
McAuliffe noted that Virginia is one of two states in which the legislature has full power over the election of Supreme Court justices, a system he called "very unfortunate."
In a statement, House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell said the four justices who sided against McAuliffe are "widely respected" and elected with bipartisan support.
"The governor's remarks are an attack on the Supreme Court as an institution and all of its members, former and present," Howell said. "The governor is free to disagree with the court's ruling, but it is wholly inappropriate to question the judicial integrity of the justices."
McAuliffe had issued an executive order in April that restored the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons.
But the Virginia's Supreme Court struck down that order in a July 22 opinion, ruling that governors cannot restore rights en masse, but must handle them on a case-by-case basis.
Of the more than 200,000 felons whose rights had been restored, only roughly 13,000 had actually registered to vote.
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com