Category: Clemency Laws

Florida Hopes To Appeal Federal Judges Ruling To Overturn Clemency Laws

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) recently announced that he has plans to begin the appeal process against an order that would force Florida to create a brand new voting system that would allow for the restoration of voting rights to the states citizens who have been formerly convicted of felonies. This goes against the states laws, which strip the right to vote once a person is convicted of a felony charge. The state only allows that right to be restored once a convicted felon appears in court and applies to have their rights reinstated. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled earlier this year that the state’s process was unconstitutional because it allowed the officials of the state the right to use their personal discretion in deciding who gets their rights back and who does not.

At the end of March, Walker informed Florida they would have until April 26 to create a new system, but Scott was quick to step forward with plans of an appeal. He then requested Walker pause his order while the appeal is pending in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is believed by many lawyers for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) that this will be appealed and overturned due to a lack of proof showing that the current system is discriminatory in any way.

This process has been in place for many decades in the state of Florida and the officials believe that the people of the state have elected their officials and should allow those officials to determine the states clemency rules, it should not be in the hands of federal judges. A spokesperson for Scott even stated that this practice is outlined not only in the Florida Constitution but also in the United States Constitution.

The plaintiffs in the case, who are represented by lawyers for the Fair Elections Legal Network out of Washington D.C. in turn stated that the state officials have had plenty of time to reform the system while the case was pending, and they believe that the state should adopt a more uniformed system for restoring felons voting rights, not one that is so brazen that it undermines the very heart of the nations democracy.

It is important to note that in the United States there are roughly 6.1 million people who have lost voting rights due to felony convictions, nearly one fourth of those people reside in the state of Florida alone. If the people of Florida have elected these officials and they should have the final say, as those in power currently believe, then their wish may be granted. Florida activists are pushing to get a measure on the ballot that will place an amendment to the constitution that would allow voting rights to automatically be restored once felons have completed what they were sentenced for their crimes. The measure would require a 60% approval statewide for it to pass if it is on the ballot in November. For more information on this topic, click here.