Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott reversed a 2007 decision made by then-Governor Charlie Crist that automatically restored voting rights to nonviolent ex-offenders. Unfortunately, ex-offenders in Florida will once again face high hurdles in order to have their rights restored.
Sound familiar? Probably because this is reminiscent of an executive order made by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in January that once again requires felons to petition the governor individually to have their voting rights restored.
The Brennan Center has summarized the key points of the new Florida rules:
- Even people with nonviolent convictions must wait five years after completing all terms of their sentence before being allowed to even apply for restoration of civil rights.
- The clock resets if an individual is arrested for even a misdemeanor during that five-year period, even if no charges are ever filed.
- Some people must wait seven years before being able to apply, and must appear for a hearing before the clemency board.
- A provision allowing people to apply for a waiver of the rules was eliminated.
Prior to last week’s change, African Americans were already excluded from the polls at more than twice the rate of other Florida citizens. Not counting those currently serving a criminal sentence, 13% of the voting-age African-American population in Florida has lost the right to vote, representing nearly a quarter of those who are disenfranchised in Florida.
At a time when many states are finally relegating these Jim Crow relics to the past, it is troubling that states like Florida and Iowa are focused on reversing the progress that’s been made.