Florida’s legal battle over voting rights for ex-prisoners escalated on Monday, as the state and a voting rights organization representing former felons made dramatically different requests of a federal judge. Lawyers who have sued Florida want U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to order the automatic restoration of voting rights to anyone who has been out of prison at least five years. Walker ruled earlier this month that the state’s system of restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time is arbitrary and unconstitutional. Gov. Rick Scott, however, says that Walker should refrain from ordering the state to take any action. Instead the judge should leave it up to the governor and other state officials to decide how to change the current system.
Articles about voting issues in Florida.
The first time the Florida poet Devin Coleman voted was also his last. It was 2000, Gore v. Bush – when his was among millions of votes in play as the US Supreme Court called the winner and set the eventual arc of American affairs. Not long thereafter, Mr. Coleman was involved in a fight at a house party. His arrest led to eventual burglary charges, a prison sentence, and the revocation of his right to vote. Nearly two decades later, Coleman, now 39, is a father, published author, public speaker, and college graduate. But he says his disenfranchisement has shaded those successes.
Florida lawmakers want to expand the use of digital voting and tallying machines. Many of the state’s election managers are behind the plan. But critics don’t want to leave the paper ballot behind. … Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley supports the bill. He says digital recounts would be more effective and efficient. “We would’ve not only been able to find the paper very quickly because of the digital ballot sorting that is inherent in this audit system, the great power of it, it’s very visual and transparent. We could’ve seen the problem ballots, assessed the images. And if the county commission or canvasing board so desired, they could have immediately said, ‘Let’s go see these 60 ballots or these 38 ballots’ or whatever it was that were in dispute, and we could’ve pulled the paper very easily out of the box,”Earley said.
In November 1865—barely six months after Appomattox, and three weeks before the official ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment—the New York Tribune’s front page bore a provocative headline: “South Carolina Re-establishing Slavery.” The story laid out the new system being put into place in most of the former Confederacy—“Black Codes,” criminal laws targeting black citizens, coupling a long list of minor offenses with a schedule of prohibitive fines. If a black defendant could not pay the fine, he or she was to be “contracted out” to work off the “debt” for some white employer. (In some of the codes, a “debtor’s” black children would also be “apprenticed,” with preference given to the families of their former “masters.”) The new system, a Confederate veteran explained to Chicago Tribune correspondent Sydney Andrews, would “be called ‘involuntary servitude for the punishment of crime,’ but it won’t differ much from slavery.”
A U.S. District Court on Thursday ruled as unconstitutional Florida’s current system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons, potentially heralding major changes for disenfranchised voters. Judge Mark Walker ruled that the current system violates both the First and 14th Amendments. Walker noted in his ruling that “elected, partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines, or standards.” “Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” Walker wrote. “To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration.”
With three letters, NPA, on his voter registration card, Steve Hough has only one way to have a say during Florida’s primary elections: Claim he’s a Republican or Democrat. “I’ve always been an independent,” said Hough, a Panama City resident. “I can always go down to the Supervisor of Elections Office and check a box 29 days prior (to a primary), then after voting change it back. I don’t see the reason why we have to do this.” More than 3 million Floridians did not participate in the primary elections of 2016 because they are part of the growing number of “no-party affiliation voters,” those who choose not to be associated with either of the two major parties. Where many states have opened up primary elections to voters like Hough, Florida’s remains closed. An effort to change that passed a critical test last week and faces another Thursday.
An effort to let voters decide if they want open primary elections advanced Friday, but moving to such a “top-two” system drew questions from members of the state Constitution Revision Commission. Commission member Bill Schifino, a Tampa attorney, initially proposed allowing unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in Republican or Democratic primaries. But Schifino altered the proposal to put all candidates seeking the same office — if there are more than two candidates — into a single primary regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters would run in the general election. That system, already in use by California, Nebraska and Washington, would also allow state parties to list on the ballot the candidate they “endorse.”
Florida: Floridians will vote this fall on restoring voting rights to 1.5 million felons | Orlando Sentinel
Florida voters will decide this fall whether 1.5 million felons will get their voting rights back. Floridians for Fair Democracy, led by Desmond Meade, of Orlando, successfully gathered more than 799,000 certified signatures in their years-long petition drive, just a week before the deadline to reach the required total of about 766,000. Because of that, the state on Tuesday certified the initiative for the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the amendment would restore voting rights to Floridians with felony convictions after they fully complete their sentences, including parole or probation. Those convicted of murder or sexual offenses would continue to be barred from voting.
Florida: Scott’s office raps Broward’s ‘unacceptable’ ballot destruction in Wasserman Schultz race | Politico
Gov. Rick Scott’s office rapped Broward County’s election supervisor for giving an “insufficient response” to an official inquiry concerning her apparently “unacceptable” decision to destroy a congressional race’s paper ballots that were the subject of litigation. The ballots in question were cast in the 2016 South Florida Democratic primary between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and challenger Tim Canova, who later asked to inspect the paper trail because he was concerned about election integrity. Canova finally filed suit against Broward County’s election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, when he felt his public request to inspect a select number of ballots was not being honored in a timely fashion. In the middle of the suit, POLITICO first reported, Snipes’ office destroyed the paper ballots but said it made electronic copies of them.
Florida: Amendment to restore felons’ voting rights on Florida 2018 ballot | News Service of Florida
More than 1.5 million Floridians now unable to participate in elections would automatically have their voting rights restored, under a proposed constitutional amendment that will go before voters in November. The “Voting Restoration Amendment,” which was approved Tuesday to appear on the ballot as Amendment 4, would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Murderers and sex offenders would be excluded. Floridians for a Fair Democracy, the political committee behind the petition drive, this week surpassed the requisite 766,200 signatures to put the proposed amendment on the November ballot.