Restoring Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights in Florida
A new civil rights campaign is underway in Florida: An effort to end Florida’s felon disenfranchisement law by changing the state Constitution via a November 2018 ballot initiative. Florida is one of only three states where felony convictions permanent strip ex-felons of their voting rights, regardless of the crime and the time done. It is estimated that this robbed approximately 1.68 million Florida residents of their voting rights in 2016 alone as a result.
The Amendment would alter the state’s Constitution to terminate any disqualification from voting arising from a felony conviction and restore voting rights upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation, effectively making Florida like most other states. However, advocates will first need to obtain one million signatures–and support from 60 percent of midterm voters–to get the Voter Restoration Amendment on the ballot and passed in November 2018.
An Effort Long Overdue
Changing Florida’s Constitution to address this injustice is long overdue. The felon voting provisions date back to 1868, when there was a mass introduction of “black codes” in the South in an effort to undermine new civil rights laws. Stripping ex-felons of their voting rights was part of a general effort to prevent African-Americans from voting at all, and has kept former felons second-class citizens.
Currently, Florida arguably has the highest disenfranchisement rates in the country, barring an estimated more than one in five African-Americans from voting. All citizens with felony convictions are automatically barred from voting unless they apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency to restore their voting rights, and even then, restoration of these rights is far from guaranteed.
The Florida state governor determines the clemency rules. Under Governor Rick Scott, the current clemency rules—in place since 2011—have been the most restrictive the state has seen in some time. By December 2015, the administration restored voting rights to fewer than 2,000 people, leaving an estimated 20,000 applications pending. Between 2010 and 2016, the disenfranchised population of Florida grew from an estimated 150,000 to 1,686,000 people.
However, it is important to note that, even if the Amendment passes, convictions for murder to felony sexual offense would keep the offender in a stricter clemency process.
The Very Best Civil Rights & Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Florida
If you have been denied your civil rights as the result of a criminal conviction, working with an attorney who is experienced in practicing both criminal defense and civil rights law is in your best interest.
At the Baez Law Firm, we can help. We protect and serve clients throughout Orlando, Miami, and surrounding areas, providing a focus in criminal defense, civil litigation, and civil rights.