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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's sweeping executive order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons is unconstitutional, the state's highest court ruled Friday, siding with Republican lawmakers who said the governor overstepped his authority.
 
In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Virginia ordered the state to cancel the registrations of the more than 11,000 felons who have signed up to vote so far under the governor's April executive order and subsequent ones, which also allowed felons to run for public office, serve on a jury and become a notary public.

Top Republicans, who sued the governor over the order, called it "a major victory for the Constitution, the rule of law and the Commonwealth of Virginia."

"Our nation was founded on the principles of limited government and separation of powers. Those principles have once again withstood assault from the executive branch. This opinion is a sweeping rebuke of the governor's unprecedented assertion of executive authority," House Speaker William Howell and Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment said in a statement.

Republicans argued that governors cannot restore rights en masse but must consider each former offender's case individually. Their attorney, Charles Cooper, told the justices during oral arguments Tuesday that the fact that no other Virginia governor has taken such a sweeping action proves the power doesn't exist.


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