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Brennan Center for Justice Report on FL Ex-Felon Voting Rights

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Image: Elections, brennancenter.org

Florida may not gone through a hanging chad debacle during this presidential election, but a new report argues the state’s voter policies are “radically out of step” with the rest of the country in regards to how it treats ex-felons.

The Brennan Center for Justice says more than 1.6 million residents have lost their right to vote in Florida for virtually the rest of their lives due to an antiquated voting ban for people with past felony convictions, which represents more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. Ex-felons who’ve been released can’t vote, hold office or serve on a jury in Florida, and those who would like their voting rights back must petition before the governor and a clemency board in a years-long process. Out of the group of a million and a half people who lost the right to vote, about one-third are black, even though African Americans make up just 16 percent of the state’s population.

The report argues Gov. Rick Scott has made the clemency process more difficult during his five years in office by making it harder to apply and rolling back several rules implemented by former Gov. Charlie Crist, including an automatic restoration of rights for people with nonviolent felony convictions. In 2009, under Crist, 24,537 people were approved for rights restoration, while in 2011, in Scott’s first year as governor, only 52 applications were approved. A spokeswoman for Scott told the Miami Herald the governor “supports the current clemency process.”

Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida says silencing 1.6 million voices is the opposite of what democracy looks like for people who have already paid their debt to society.


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