Barbara Gaines’ son got a pardon from Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, and she got Scott’s autograph, too. The Orlando woman and her son were among the lucky ones Thursday. Dozens of other people who lost the right to vote from long-ago felony convictions remain in limbo because a federal judge has struck down Florida’s civil rights restoration process as unconstitutional. After waiting for years for their petitions to be considered, they traveled to Tallahassee to seek mercy from Scott and the three Cabinet members, who meet quarterly as the board of clemency. But with the restoration process discredited by the courts, the cases weren’t considered. “Several cases that were scheduled to be heard today have been continued because a federal judge has objected to our system for restoring civil rights,” Scott said as the meeting began. “Although we strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, we will respect his order not to consider applications for restoration of civil rights while we appeal his decision.”
The meeting’s printed agenda said: “All RCR (restoration of civil rights) cases are continued until further notice.” A total of 62 cases were in that category involving the right to vote, run for office and serve on a jury.
Scott and Cabinet members decided several cases that will allow people to carry guns, but they postponed voting rights cases. The clemency board meets four times a year. It’s not unusual for people to wait a decade or longer to have their rights restoration pleas considered.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee ruled last month that the Florida rights restoration system is unconstitutional.