A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members to create a new voting rights restoration process for convicted felons by April 26.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee issued a permanent injunction in support of the Fair Elections Legal Network that sued the state a year ago, and successfully challenged the constitutionality of the state’s antiquated voting rights restoration process.
Walker did not order the restoration of voting rights for any felons in his order, but he directed Scott and his three fellow Republicans to establish “specific and neutral criteria to direct vote-restoration decisions,” and “meaningful, specific and expeditious time constraints” for the voting rights restoration process.
Scott and the Cabinet voted in 2011 to require any convicted felon to wait at least five years after completion of their sentences before petitioning the state for the restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Felons convicted of murder or sex offenses must wait seven years.
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The other three officials affected by Tuesday’s ruling are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who’s a candidate for governor.
“We will review the court’s ruling. Officials elected by Floridians, not judges, have the authority to determine Florida’s clemency process for convicted felons. This is outlined in Florida’s Constitution and has been in place for more than a century and under multiple gubernatorial administrations,” said Scott’s communications directior, John Tupps, in a statement.
“The Governor continues to stand with victims of crime. He believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.”
Steve Bousquet: 850-224-7263, firstname.lastname@example.org, @stevebousquet