Cuccinelli’s soft spot for felons

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s ill-fated measure to automatically restore voting rights for nonviolent felons – you know, the bill that died a quick,  but painful death in a House subcommittee this morning – found an unlikely supporter in Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

“Though I am disappointed with this morning’s outcome, I will continue to keep up the fight on this important issue,” Cuccinelli said in a statement after the vote that may have sealed the bill’s fate.

Cuccinelli vowed to keep fighting for what he believes is right. “I would welcome the opportunity to testify before members of the Senate in an effort to underscore the importance of the restoration of civil rights to these individuals,” he continued.

In spite of the measure’s endorsement by McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, it remains highly unpopular among House Republicans. Only two GOP lawmakers have crafted their own versions of automatic voting rights restoration – their proposals were also voted down by their fellow Republicans.

The Northern Virginian is not exactly soft on crime. Yet in today’s subcommittee hearing, Cuccinelli demonstrated that he also has a soft spot for some nonviolent felons – at least for those convicted of stealing property worth a little more than $200. That’s the threshold of what constitutes a felony under Virginia law.

“That’s pretty darn low to lose your voting rights for the rest of your life,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s been there for 30 years. I have supported raising it, [but] it hasn’t gone anywhere.

Cuccinelli has recognized that being a felon today is “not the same in terms of severity than what it was 200 years ago, when being a felon had a substantive material difference from misdemeanors.”