The Virginia Constitution makes it very difficult to restore the civil rights of former felons who have completed their sentences and returned from prison; rights may only be restored upon Gubernatorial approval. Gov. Terry McAuliffe boldly stated this was unfair and unjust, and, in an executive order issued in April 2016, dispensed with the case-by-case restoration approach embraced by previous Governors. Instead, the Governor’s Order immediately restored voting rights to all Virginians with felony convictions who, as of that date, had completed the terms of their incarceration and any period of supervised release, whether or not they had applied for restoration.
House Republicans challenged the action and the Virginia Supreme Court said the Governor could not issue a blanket restoration. Not to be denied, McAuliffe simply decided to sign an individual restoration of rights order for every single person who qualified, even if they had not yet made an application to the state.
By the end of his term, McAuliffe had restored voting rights to over 173,000, the largest number of any Governor in America.