Nearly 1.7 million Florida citizens are permanently disenfranchised from voting in state and federal elections because of being former felons. Disenfranchisement has climbed from 2.6 percent of the state’s adult citizens in 1980, to 10.4% today, the highest rate in the nation, including one in five adult African Americans.[i] A pending Voting Restoration Amendment would automatically restore the right of all Florida’s former felons to vote after they complete parole and probation, except for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offences. If approximately 680,000 signatures are gathered by December 31, 2017, the Amendment will be included on Florida’s November 2018 ballot to be decided by Florida citizens.
At present, former felons in Florida can only have their voting rights restored through a long, complicated, and often expensive Executive Clemency process. If the Voting Restoration Amendment is passed, the decision about whether these citizens can participate in American democracy would be removed from any particular elected officials, and the restoration of their rights would become law, regardless of changing administrations.
During his tenure from January 2007-January 2011, then-Republican governor Charlie Crist and his Clemency Board restored the rights of 155,000 Florida citizens through the clemency process, primarily felons convicted of nonviolent crimes. His successor, Rick Scott, vastly toughened the clemency process, requiring felons to wait up to 7 years just to apply after completing parole and probation. Scott, who is the final arbiter, restored the rights of just 2,500 felons from January 2011 through spring 2017 – only 8% of those who applied. In contrast, Iowa and Kentucky approved 93% and 86% respectively in the last five years.
Full Article: Should Florida Restore Felon Voting Rights? | HuffPost.