Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s three Cabinet members are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that they must overhaul Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with a remedy by April 26. “People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement. “This process has been in place for decades and is outlined in both the U.S. and Florida constitutions.” The state also asked to delay meeting the April 26 deadline, which drew a sharp rebuke from the judge, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker. Last month, he ordered Scott and the Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — to figure out a more fair way to restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences.
“Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote in a six-page decision late Wednesday.
While expected, the state’s appeal all but ensures that a new restoration system won’t be in place by the November election, when Scott, Putnam and Patronis are all expected to be on the ballot. An estimated 1.5 million Floridians have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions.