Nearly one-fourth of black Florida adults, and one-tenth of the state’s total voting-age population, aren’t allowed to vote because of the state’s prohibition on voting by former felons, the nation’s highest rate of disenfranchisement, according to a study by an advocacy group. The vast majority are what the report calls “ex-felons,” those convicted of a felony who have served their sentences and completed any required parole, probation or restitution. The study was done by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit think tank on criminal justice that advocates allowing ex-felons to regain the right to vote.
The study estimated that 23 percent of Florida’s adult black population and 10.4 percent of the total voting-age population have lost voting rights as a result of criminal convictions. That includes 218,000 individuals now in prison, in jail or on probation and 1.3 million ex-felons, 433,000 of them black. By comparison, national rates of disenfranchisement are 7.7 percent for blacks and 2.5 percent for the overall population.
Florida, the report notes, has among the nation’s strictest laws on felon disenfranchisement. It’s one of 11 states that permanently bar voting by those with felony convictions, unless they go through a process of civil rights restoration that can take years even after prescribed waiting periods.