A judge on Tuesday ordered Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet to dismantle Florida’s “fatally flawed” system of arbitrarily restoring voting rights to felons and to replace it by April 26. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee issued a permanent injunction in support of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which sued the state a year ago. The group successfully challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 150-year-old voting rights restoration process for felons in the nation’s third-largest state. “This is a victory for the principle that the right to vote cannot be subjected to officials’ gut instincts and whims,” said Jon Sherman, senior counsel for the nonprofit voting rights group. “We are also heartened that the court prevented Florida from following through on its threat to be the only state in the nation with an irrevocable lifetime ban on voting for all former felons — what the court called ‘the ultimate arbitrary act.’ ”
A spokesman for Scott issued a statement that defended the current system.
“Officials elected by Floridians, not judges, have the authority to determine Florida’s clemency process for convicted felons,” spokesman John Tupps said. “This is outlined in Florida’s Constitution and has been in place for more than a century and under multiple gubernatorial administrations.”
Tupps said Scott — who’s expected to declare his candidacy for U.S. Senate on April 9 — “believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses, including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.