State leaders urged to address issue of voting rights for ex-felons

Some find restoring voting rights for ex-felons unconstitutional in Florida
Some find restoring voting rights for ex-felons unconstitutional in Florida
Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-30 18:20:24-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) - Following a ruling by a federal judge earlier this week that found the state's system of restoring voting rights for ex-felons is unconstitutional, several pastors and former felons from across Florida gathered Friday to ask state leaders to quickly address the issue.

The "Clergy Coalition for Civil Rights" held a news conference in Tallahassee, calling on Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to make changes to the state's clemency process.

Under the current system, felons must wait at least five years before applying to have their civil rights, including the right to vote, restored.

Once an application is made, the process can take years to complete.

The restoration of felons' rights has long been controversial in Florida, with critics of the state's process comparing it to post-Civil War Jim Crow policies, designed to keep blacks from casting ballots.

"When a person has served his or her time in prison, paid their debt to society, paid restitution and are off probation, it is the humane and right thing to do," said Reverend RB Holmes of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

38 states automatically restore voting rights for most felons, and two states, Maine and Vermont, even allow prisoners to vote from behind bars.

Automatically, restoring the right to vote for convicted felons in Florida could add between 600,000 and 1.6 million voters to the state's voting rolls, according to national voting-rights experts.