The Shameful Truth: Thousands of Veterans Have Also Lost Their Right to Vote in Florida
We’ve previously discussed Florida’s history of denying millions of ex-felons of the right to vote and the civil rights concerns that raises. Its history has its roots as an outright white-supremacist measure after the Civil War to explicitly prevent African-Americans from voting.
The Miami New Times recently addressed this same issue within the context of thousands of veterans also being deprived of their right to vote here in Florida. These veterans are part of the approximately 1.5 million Floridians who lost their civil voting rights because of a previous felony conviction, even though they have long-since served their sentences.
First Amendment Prohibits Arbitrary Licensing Of the Right to Vote
In Florida, sadly, this does not matter: A felony conviction means that you permanently lose your right to vote. This is still the case even though the courts have already held that the process provided by Gov. Rick Scott and his Commission to decide on whether to allow ex-felons to vote again is both arbitrary and unconstitutional, and the fact that a majority of Floridians strongly feel that once you have paid your debt, you should be allowed to, once again, become a productive citizen.
Florida Is Unusual In This Respect
Unlike most other states, in Florida, a felony conviction permanently costs you the right to vote. In 19 states, voting rights are returned to ex-felons after their sentences are complete; in 14, you can vote again as soon as you are out of prison; and in two states, voting rights are never taken away from people simply because they are convicted.
One Veteran’s Story
One veteran’s story highlights just how unjust this is: After returning home and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and being over prescribed valium, he turned to relying on marijuana to survive and keep the PTSD at bay. His daughter then was involved in a tragic car accident, and after being over diagnosed and reacting to opiates, he decided to grow marijuana to use in place of opioids the doctors had prescribed her. This is the reasoning behind the felony conviction that cost this particular veteran his right to vote.
This November Brings Opportunity for Change
This November, citizens in Florida finally have a chance to turn this around: The Voting Restoration Amendment (aka Amendment 4) would restore voting rights to anyone with a prior felony conviction once they completed their sentences (except for those convicted a felony sexual offense or homicide).
Contact Our Florida Civil Rights & Criminal Defense Attorneys
If your civil rights have been violated as the result of a criminal conviction, working with a proven Florida attorney who has experience in both civil rights and criminal defense is in your best interest. Contact our Florida civil rights and criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.