Convicts who served their time shouldn’t be shut out of Florida voting booths, according to Palm Beach County voting rights advocates who favor more forgiving voting rules for felons. They want to change a state policy, imposed under Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, that requires 5- to 7-year waiting periods followed by applications to the governor and state Cabinet for felons to try to have their voting rights restored. Most other states restore voting rights automatically when felons complete their sentences. The League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County, the Voting Rights Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union are among the groups gathering in Boca Raton Sunday at a forum to raise awareness about what organizers call a state policy that is “undermining democracy.”
“They are completely shut out of a political process that affects their lives,” said Nancy Abudu, ACLU of Florida’s legal director. “It’s just not rational. It’s just not necessary.”
Supporters of the voting restrictions for felons say the waiting periods and application process should be required so that people convicted of a crime over time show that they are following the law.
But opponents counter that the governor and other Republican state elected officials favored changing the rules to keep people who might vote against them away from the polls. They are angling to make it a campaign issue in Scott’s November re-election bid. “It is voter suppression,” Nancy Cohen, of the League of Women Voters, said about the tougher restrictions on felons voting. “You just have no place to go. You have no voice.”