Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic former governor of Virginia who wants to be elected governor again in November, thinks he’s hit on a winning applause line this morning: “Call me crazy, but I think it should be easier to vote than it should be to buy a gun.”
To vote in Virginia, a person must be 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Virginia – as well as not currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law. If convicted of a felony, the felon’s right to vote must be formally restored; as of March 16, individuals are eligible to have their rights restored after being released from incarceration.
In 2020, more than 81 percent of Virginia’s registered voters came out to cast a ballot or voted absentee. There is absolutely no evidence that the state of Virginia is suppressing the vote or that registered voters are being prevented from getting to the polls, or that eligible voters are being somehow dissuaded or prevented from registering.
It’s not clear what is left for McAuliffe to do, if reelected. As the New York Times summarized in May, “in the last 14 months, the state’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Mr. Northam have together repealed the state’s voter ID law, enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting, made Election Day a state holiday and enacted automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license.”
However, some Virginians do worry that some unseen group or force will somehow intercept, destroy, or alter their ballot; before the election, “Tony Whitehead, another Richmond resident, said he is concerned about the possibility of ballots being stolen from mailboxes by groups who want the opposing party to win.” But that expression of concern came before the 2020 election; after Election Day 2020, questions about whether your ballot was properly and securely transported and counted became widely considered a sign of dangerous right-wing extremism.
Meanwhile, Virginians cannot legally purchase a firearm if they fit under any one of 23 categories, including if they are under indictment for a felony, are the subject of an active misdemeanor or felony arrest warrant from any state, were ever convicted of a felony, have an active protective or restraining order filed against them, unlawfully uses or is addicted to drugs or any controlled substance, had ever been adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated, had ever been involuntarily admitted to a facility for mental health treatment, discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable discharge, had ever been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, and others.
In other words, it is much, much easier to vote in Virginia than to purchase a firearm. But wildly exaggerating the ease of purchasing a firearm is a proud tradition of Democratic candidates and officeholders. President Obama famously contended that, “we flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book” and separately, “there are neighborhoods where it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable.” The phenomenon no doubt represents the outrageous mandatory seven-day waiting period before purchasing a dictionary, and the nefarious lingering effects of the Assault Vegetable Ban.
McAuliffe may well be crazy, but that’s for entirely different reasons.