RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe says he's now restored the rights of about 140,000 ex-felons.

The milestone comes after the presidential election, but McAuliffe has long argued that his efforts had nothing to do with politics.

During his governorship, McAuliffe has made criminal justice reform a top issue.

The restoration of voting and other civil rights to thousands of former felons has also been the source of one of his biggest battles with Republicans.

The governor issued his first sweeping order of restoration of rights less than seven months before the presidential election. Immediately GOP leaders in charge of the General Assembly challenged the decision, saying it broke a long-standing tradition of case-by-case review.

Virginia’s highest court ruled in July that the governor's process was unconstitutional.

Following that decision, McAuliffe restored rights but under a new system.

"As you know, it was a tough battle. We veered ahead, we did the right thing,” McAuliffe said. “Parents or sons or daughters or relatives who come up to me - for the first time in their lives, they had the opportunity to vote in the last presidential election. It was a game-changer for them.”

McAuliffe has said restoration of rights is pivotal to making sure Virginia creates an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all. He also says everyone deserves a second chance once they've done their time.

The question of restoration of rights is likely to be a huge topic of discussion once lawmakers convene for the 2017 legislative session next week.

One Democrat has proposed eliminating restrictions on felons voting. A Republican leader has proposed automatic restoration for non-violent felons.