President Obama’s decision to grant 72 more commutations Friday just before getting on Air Force One for a two-city campaign tour of North Carolina shows how far he’s gone in his efforts to “reinvigorate” the pardon process, USA Today reports. Just a year ago, it might have been unthinkable for a president to use his constitutional power to shorten sentences so close to an election. “Commutations a week before an election? That’s a wow factor of 10!” said P.S. Ruckman Jr., a political scientist who has studied clemency.
Obama granted 170 commutations in eight days, bringing the total for his presidency to 944. It’s the largest number of commutations in any single year in history. “What President Obama has done for commutations is unprecedented in the modern era,” said White House Counsel Neil Eggleston. “The president is committed to reinvigorating the clemency authority, demonstrating that our nation is a nation of second chances, where mistakes from the past will not deprive deserving individuals of the opportunity to rejoin society and contribute to their families and communities.”