Seven years after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet voted to end the state policy that automatically restored the civil rights of nonviolent offenders after they complete their sentences, a price tag has emerged. Florida lost an estimated $385 million a year in economic impact, spent millions on court and prison costs, had 3,500 more offenders return to prison, and lost the opportunity to create about 3,800 new jobs. Those are just some of the conclusions of a new economic research report prepared by the Republican-leaning Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables for proponents of Amendment 4, the proposal on the November ballot that asks voters to allow the automatic restoration of civil rights for eligible felons who have served their sentences.
After years of fighting for the change, an effort to restore the voting rights of thousands of Louisiana’s convicted felons still serving probation and parole was successful Thursday, winning final passage amid cheers, high-fives and hugs. A 54-42 House vote gave final passage to the bill by Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat who had faced repeated defeat for the proposal. The measure squeaked out of the chamber, reaching the governor’s desk with one vote more than it needed. Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to sign the change into law, according to spokesman Richard Carbo. It will take effect on March 1, 2019.
In 2004, Desmond Meade, while serving a 15-year prison sentence for a drug offense in Florida, got a break. An appeals court returned his conviction to the original trial bench, allowing him to plead guilty to a lesser charge and get out of prison in three years, most of which he had already served. But his freedom came with a price, something that didn’t quite register with him at the time: as part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, Meade agreed to give up his civil rights: the right to vote, to serve on a jury and to run for office. “At the time, when I first accepted the plea deal, I didn’t understand the consequences,” Meade says. Fourteen years and a pair of college and law degrees later, Meade, now 50, still can’t vote; his application to regain his civil rights was rejected in 2011. The reason: a new Florida law that requires felons like him to wait for seven years before they could apply for rights restoration.
A bill that would restore voting rights to felons on parole who have been out of prison for five years is on its way to the governor’s desk after it passed the Senate Wednesday. The bill passed the Senate 24-13. After failing twice in the House this session, the bill, written by Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, passed the House in a 60-40 vote last week. Louisiana is one of 21 states where felons lose the right to vote for their time in prison and for the duration of their parole. Thirteen other states generally have more restrictive laws than Louisiana, according to a study conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A bid to restore voting rights to some of Louisiana’s convicted felons still serving probation and parole neared final legislative passage Monday, in a surprise turnaround after years of defeat. The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the measure after senators on the committee spurned a move by Republican Sen. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro to kill the bill. Louisiana’s 1974 constitution allows suspension of voting rights for people who are “under an order of imprisonment” for a felony. A law passed two years later specified that people on probation or parole for a felony are included in that definition, leaving some unable to ever vote again after incarceration. The House-backed proposal would allow someone on probation or parole for a felony to register to vote after being out of prison for five years.
The House spent about an hour Tuesday debating and then tabling a bill that would restore voting rights to parolees, who are still serving their sentences. The bill, which didn’t receive much attention this year, was a priority for the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. A deal was brokered to let them debate the bill for a limit period of time, but it never got called for vote. “There is no harm in broadening civic engagement,” Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, said. He vowed to bring the bill back next year and win more support for the measure. He said they want to provide rights to individuals who are living and breathing in their communities.
Editorials: Kentucky felons may get voting rights back after Florida case | Ben Carter/Courier Journal
When it comes to people without a lot of political power, people with felony convictions are near the top of an increasingly long list. All but two states (Vermont and Maine) temporarily strip people convicted of felonies of their right to vote. Three states (Florida, Kentucky and Iowa) permanently strip people with felony convictions of the right to vote. In between these extremes, the rest of the states automatically restore the right to vote at varying stages of rehabilitation: after release, after parole or after probation. Here in Kentucky, people convicted of felonies lose their voting rights permanently. The only way get the right to vote back is to apply to the governor and, according to the application for restoration of voting rights, that decision is solely within the governor’s “prerogative.”
A state appellate court refused on Wednesday to reconsider its April ruling upholding the legality of a 1976 Louisiana law that bars felons on probation and parole from voting. The case now heads to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Felons challenged the state law, claiming it’s unconstitutional and prevents more than 70,000 felons on probation and parole in Louisiana from voting. Bruce Reilly, deputy director of VOTE, said Wednesday the group’s members will do everything in their power to have their right to vote recognized.
A federal appeals court has tentatively scheduled oral arguments for late July in a closely-watched constitutional battle over Florida’s system for restoring the voting rights of felons. The News Service of Florida reports that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments the week of July 23, though an online docket does not yet list a specific date.
Louisiana: Appellate court asked to reconsider legality of 1976 Louisiana felon voting law | The Advocate
A state appeals court in Baton Rouge is being asked to reconsider the constitutionality of a more than four-decade-old Louisiana law that prohibits felons on probation and parole from voting. State District Judge Tim Kelley, of Baton Rouge, upheld the 1976 law in March of last year, saying he agreed with the plaintiffs who challenged its legality but could not bend the law. The plaintiffs — a group called Voice of the Experienced, or VOTE, and several felons — say the law prevents more than 70,000 felons on probation and parole in Louisiana from voting.