Judge orders Florida governor to create new process to restore voting rights of convicted felons
A federal judge has ordered Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to create a new system to restore voting rights for convicted felons, The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave Scott and three of his elected Cabinet members until April 26 to create the new system.
Scott’s office said it would review the order.
“Officials elected by Floridians, not judges, have the authority to determine Florida’s clemency process for convicted felons,” Scott communications director John Tupps said in a statement. “This is outlined in Florida’s Constitution and has been in place for more than a century and under multiple gubernatorial administrations.”
The court order was part of an injunction issued by Walker in favor of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which successfully sued Florida over the state’s system for restoring voting rights to convicted felons.
Currently, the state can strip convicted felons of their voting rights unless the decision is overturned by the governor and Cabinet. Those felons cannot register to vote unless they are given back their voting rights.
Walker had earlier ruled that the current system is unconstitutional. Roughly 1.5 million Floridians permanently lost their voting rights under the system, the Times reported.
The judge on Tuesday ordered Scott and the Cabinet members to create a system with “specific and neutral criteria to direct vote-restoration decisions,” and “meaningful, specific and expeditious time constraints,” according to the Times.
“Defendants essentially repackage the current scheme into proposed remedies permitting the governor and the board to do, as the governor described, ‘whatever we want’ in denying voting rights to hundreds of thousands of their constituents,” Walker wrote in the decision.
The ruling comes as Floridians prepare to vote on a ballot initiative in November to automatically restore voting rights to most convicted felons after they complete their sentences.
This story was updated at 8:55 a.m.
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