A petition drive seeks a statewide vote on automatic voting restoration for those with criminal records. Meanwhile, the state must respond to a court ruling that the system to decide who may vote after a criminal conviction is arbitrary.
A federal court ruling could force Florida to fix a massive backlog of re-enfranchisement cases ahead of the November election. Federal judge Mark Walker ruled this month that 1.5 million Floridians’ right to vote has been affected by a “scheme” to bend the people’s collective will to political whim, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The judge found that the vote restoration process in Florida – executed by a Republican-led clemency board headed by Gov. Rick Scott – used arbitrary means to decide who is worthy. The state must come up with remedies to the current constitutional violations. Rebuked for violating the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, Scott joins other Republican state politicians facing legal blowback from measures that courts have ruled discriminate, whether by effect or intent – or both – against black Americans.
The verdict against Florida’s system, civil rights experts say, could affect the deeper impacts of voting rights on political outcomes. This year, nearly a million Floridians signed a winning petition to have automatic vote restoration for felons (save for murderers and rapists) added to the state constitution. Sixty percent of voters would need to OK it in November for it to become law. A 2014 national poll showed 65 percent of Americans in favor of automatic vote restoration. Nationally, one out of 13 blacks can’t vote because of felon disenfranchisement, a practice that started in the South during Reconstruction. About 4.7 million Americans can’t vote because of their criminal record, 1.7 million of whom live in Florida.