Law Professors Show Grounds to Restore Felon Voting Rights in Court Filing

University of Virginia School of Law Professor A.E. Dick Howard, the principal architect of Virginia’s current constitution, joined Professor Daniel Ortiz and two other Virginia-based law professors to file an amicus brief in Howell v. McAuliffe, a case that challenges Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s restoration of voting rights to convicted felons in the state.

Del. William J. Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and several other petitioners are challenging, on constitutional grounds, McAuliffe’s order restoring the voting rights for those who have completed their sentence and parole or probation. 

The June 27 friend-of-the-court filing by Howard and his colleagues argues that both the plain language of the state constitution and the historical record support the governor’s right to “remove political disability by group.”

Article II, Section 1 of Virginia’s constitution allows the governor to restore the rights, the brief states, with Article V, Section 12 giving the governor absolute power to remove political disabilities, except where constitutional language expressly prohibits.

(Read the full amicus.)

Howard, who advised the governor before his rights-restoration announcement on April 22, and Ortiz, director of the UVA Law Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, are joined by two professors from the University of Richmond School of Law, Carl W. Tobias and John Paul Jones, emeritus.

“The other professors and I argue that there is solid ground in the constitution of Virginia for the governor’s order,” Howard said.

Widely acknowledged as an expert in the fields of constitutional law, comparative constitutionalism and the Supreme Court, Howard is UVA’s White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs. He was executive director of the commission that wrote Virginia’s current constitution and directed the successful referendum campaign for its ratification.

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