Florida Leads Nation in Harshest Disenfranchisement Policy

Posted: August 4, 2013 in News and politics

According to an article appearing today on the website of the South Florida Times, Florida has earned the distinction of having one of the harshest policies on disenfranchisement upon conviction of a felony among all the states in the nation. “Changes under Republican Gov. Rick Scott are making it more difficult for Florida’s former felons to get their voting rights restored, which critics say has suppressed the minority vote and hurt Democratic candidates.” As the article further noted, “civil liberties activists say Florida’s rights restoration rules are the most restrictive in the nation and have the effect, if not the intent, of suppressing the minority vote.”

According to the article, Florida is the largest of four states that permanently deny felons the right to vote unless restored by the governor or a clemency board. The others are Virginia, Kentucky and Iowa. In the midst of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, Florida adopted a new constitution with a provision prohibiting former felons from voting or holding public office unless their civil rights were restored. While former Governor Charlie Crist helped to adopt liberal provisions to the rules regulating executive clemency that proided for the automatic restoration of voting rights for nonviolent ex-offenders, one of his first actions taken by Governor Rick Scott following his election was to “undo” those amendments by adopting new rules that require ex-offenders to wait at least 5 years after their release before even applying to have their right to vote restored. Since then, the South Florida Times reports, “the number of former felons who have had their voting rights restored has slowed to a trickle.”

For further information, read the article or visit the website of the Sentencing Proect.

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