The order applies to both nonviolent and violent former offenders, but only after they complete their sentence and all other requirements like supervised probation or parole. The 206,000 people the governor's office says are now eligible to vote could influence how Virginia votes in the competitive 2016 election.
But McAuliffe told ABC News the decision has nothing to do with the election and that he thought it was the right thing to do as governor.
“Forget the elections, as governor I’ve got to make decisions that are the best interest I believe for the Commonwealth. It was morally the right thing to do and legally I have the right to do it,” he said.
“We were one of the four worst states in the United States of America, so you bet race was a big issue," he told ABC News. "What we did today remedied, literally going back to 1901 and 1902, a terrible injustice in the African-American community. Today we ended that horrible chapter of 115, 114 years.”
The executive order signed todaydoes not automatically apply to all individuals convicted of a felony in the future but McAuliffe ordered a similar order prepared every month as the Commonwealth continues to look at the eligibility process.
The governor has restored the rights of 18,000 convicted felons in previous years, more than the past seven governors combined, according to a press release from his office.