Plowman Sues For Release of Governor’s Felon List

Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman today filed a lawsuit against Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson seeking to get the list of convicted felons who had their voting rights reinstated by executive order in April.

The case is filed as a Freedom of Information Act petition for the records. Plowman, and other prosecutors around the state, have been requesting a list of the 206,000 names since May. The state government has refused to release the information claiming they were working papers and citing other disclosure exemptions.

Last month, Plowman filed an amicus brief as part of the constitutional challenge to McAuliffe’s action filed by state Republicans. In that filing, he documented individual cases in which voting rights may have been restored to felons who were still in prison or serving probation—individuals who would not qualify for the restoration of rights under criteria laid out in McAuliffe’s order.

The release of names is needed to allow the individuals to be more thoroughly vetted, Plowman argued. He specifically raised concerns of allowing the felons to serve on criminal juries.

The Virginia Supreme Court heard the Republican challenge Tuesday in Richmond and several justices, including Loudoun’s William C. Mims, cited the disclosure of the names as an important element in the effort to restore felons’ rights using the governor’s clemency powers.

“The governor’s failure to provide that public document may be the fulcrum on which standing turns,” Mims said during the hour-long hearing. “I, for one, do not understand how it is that a document of such importance can be shielded from the litigants and the citizens of Virginia.”

The Supreme Court made no ruling yesterday. No hearing date has been set for Plowman’s lawsuit.