Seven former felons sued Florida Governor Rick Scott and other state officers on Monday seeking to have their voting rights restored, claiming their disenfranchisement in the state is unconstitutionally arbitrary. Florida is one of four states that strip all former felons of their voting rights. The class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. Northern District of Florida by the non-partisan Fair Elections Legal Network takes aim at the process by which they can seek to regain their voting rights. Measures adopted in 2011 by Scott and other Republican state leaders require ex-felons to wait for five to seven years after completing their sentences before they can apply to regain their vote. Fewer than 2,500 petitions for voting rights restoration have been approved since Scott took office in 2011, while the backlog of applications stands around 10,500, the lawsuit said.
Florida’s approach has disenfranchised an estimated 1.6 million people, more than any other state, research shows.
The state has maintained some of the nation’s toughest voting rights restrictions, while many other states have taken steps to help convicted criminals regain access to the ballot after the completion of their sentences.
Racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by the felon voting restrictions in Florida, which is the largest battleground state in U.S. presidential elections.