Well, that didn’t take long. Instead of correcting a wrong of their own making, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to double-down to support a clemency process that a federal judge recently determined was both “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional.” In February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered the state to develop a new method of deciding when and how convicted felons can regain their voting rights by April 26. Scott and the other Republicans in the Florida Cabinet wasted little time snubbing the ruling and opting to file an appeal, a process that wastes taxpayers’ money and deprives 1.5 million Floridians of their basic civil right to vote. The decision shouldn’t surprise anyone, given state leaders’ track record of making it even more difficult for felons to regain voting and other civil rights. Seven years ago, the governor and the newly elected Cabinet dismantled what had been the makings of a legitimate clemency process and replaced it with an administrative beg-a-thon.
In 2011, Scott, Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and then-Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater changed the procedures by eliminating the automatic restoration of voting rights and replaced it with a minimum five-year waiting period before individuals could start the application process.
Florida is now one of only three states that imposes lifetime disenfranchisement for people with felony convictions. The only way convicted felons can regain voting rights in Florida is to apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency and pray that their application is granted — a rare outcome, according to state figures.