Virginia governor's bid to restore felon voting rights advances

September 15, 2016 4:51 PM EDT

Terry McAuliffe stands onstage during a campaign rally in Dale City, Virginia, October 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo


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By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Republican bid to have Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe held in contempt for his continued effort to restore voting rights to about 206,000 felons.

The high court said it would not require McAuliffe to prove that he is complying with its July 22 ruling that struck down his initial blanket attempt to restore felons' voting rights.

The one-page order also said justices would not let Republican legislative leaders seek more documents through a discovery process.

McAuliffe's efforts to restore voting rights to felons is seen as a possible aid in tipping Virginia, a swing state in the Nov. 8 presidential election, toward Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Opinion polls show her leading Republican candidate Donald Trump in the state.

Republican legislative leaders this month filed a contempt motion against McAuliffe. It came after McAuliffe said he had restored voting rights to almost 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis after the state Supreme Court blocked his blanket clemency effort.

In a statement, McAuliffe said he was pleased by the court's decision. "Restoring these Virginians’ civil rights is morally the right thing to do," he said.

McAuliffe has said his original order would move Virginia away from lifetime disenfranchisement that hits African-Americans particularly hard.

Many of the convicts who benefited were African-Americans or Latinos, two groups that have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the past. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won Virginia in 2012 and 2008.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)



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