Florida elections officials predict that a new round of reforms should make voting in November a breeze compared with 2012, when tens of thousands of residents were forced to wait seven hours or longer to cast a ballot. But the changes, which include more days of early voting, don’t signal a truce in the fight over Florida elections. From Congress to the courts, activists of all stripes continue to battle over voting rules. The outcome of those fights could affect how — and which — Floridians go to the polls in 2014 and beyond. One flash point is voting rights for ex-convicts. Florida is one of just a few states that prohibit felons from voting once their sentences are complete. Instead, they must wait at least five years before they can apply to a state clemency board to have their rights restored.
An estimated 1.3 million Floridians no longer in prison are affected, and civil-rights groups, including the ACLU of Florida, increasingly are pressuring state officials to rescind the restrictions — even rallying this month outside the Tampa office of state Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“We think it’s unconstitutional to deny someone the right to vote regardless of [whether they’ve been] convicted of a crime,” said Nancy Abudu, director of legal operations for the state ACLU chapter.