Rights, Consequences, & You:
Legal Troubles & Loosing Rights

Righting the Wrongs in Florida Rights Restoration


The right to vote is a given liberty to all U.S citizens. This said anything given can be taken away. A felony conviction can cause a citizen to lose this precious right. In Florida, felons who have served their time have struggled to obtain their voting rights back. After taking their fight to Federal Court, things may have gotten better for people who’ve paid their debt to society.

Before the federal lawsuit, Florida’s felons would have to go before an Executive Clemency Board and request that their voting rights be restored.  Despite being a voter-elected position, Florida’s Governor is one of the people who have a seat on the state’s Executive Clemency Board.

Governor Scott had been the head panel member of the Board by nine people with past felonies.   They decided to sue for their rights back, and used one incident in particular to make their case:

At one point, Scott had restored the voting rights of a white man who had cast an illegal ballot in 2010 (an election during which he had voted for Scott – or so he claimed during the hearing which the Governor was present at).  Around the same time, Scott had denied five other requests, with four of those requests coming from African-Americans. With Scott being a touted-Republican and most of Florida’s African Americans being registered Democrats, the Governor’s judgment and use of power were brought into question by the lawsuit.

Politics aren’t supposed to play into the decision to restore voter rights. Florida’s intended design of the system was one where the Clemency Board reviews applicants eligible for restoration based if they pass the criteria. Eligibility is available five years after completion of a sentence with full payment of restitution. Soon after the Office of Executive Clemency inspect the applicant and decide from a range of factors the possible acceptance of restoration.

U.S District Judge Mark Walker’s questioned Scott’s “unfettered discretion in restoring voting rights”. The Judge’s decision in Federal Court ruled Florida’s right restoration system in violation of the 1st and 14th amendments.  Now as a result of the lawsuit, Governor Scott is the state’s first to have restrictions placed on his role in restoring felons’ rights to vote.

In defense of Florida’s practices, Scott’s communication director stated: “The discretion of the clemency board over the restoration of felons’ rights in Florida has been in place for decade[s] and overseen by multiple governors.”

Florida’s restoration system will now undergo changes as a result of Judge Walker’s ruling, and the nine people involved in the lawsuit will once again be able to attempt to restore their voting rights.


Part one: 

1) Nine people who filed this case to report issues with the process of rights restorations in Florida. They didn’t believe in the justice of that system, and the judge ended up ruling in their favor.  In his decision, the judge cited Florida’s state government for violating  the 1st and 14th amendments which lead to his final decision.

1.a) In what ways could Florida have violated these amendments? Do you agree or disagree with the Judge’s claim that these violations occurred?

1. b) The nine people were also burdened with the financial cost of paying for their case. Are they eligible for any kind of compensation for the expenses they took on, now that the case seems to have been decided in their favor? Tell us what laws support your answer.

1.c) The federal court had to intervene to establish balance for the restoration process in Florida because of the potential bias a governor may have.  With this restriction in place, how much authority does Florida have when it comes to returning right to their citizens, and is that too much or too little authority for the state to have?

Part two: 

2.a) A 2016 survey led statisticians to estimate that 1.68 million Floridians had lost their voting rights. These statistics differ around the country.  How many people in Nevada have lost their voting rights this year so far, and what about in the past 10 years?

2.b) How would someone in Nevada get their voting rights restored and how is that process different than the one in Florida?

Part three: 

3) As you’ve just learned, a citizens lose certain rights after being convicted of a felony. Once they’ve served their sentences, many of these people try to reform their lives to become better than they were before. Even though they’ve ‘served their time’, some will continue to experience ongoing punishment when some of their rights remain revoked (until they take additional steps to have some of those rights restored).   Does restricting felons’ rights after they’ve served out their sentences do enough to help them learn from their mistake, or does the policy of not instantly restoring their rights (like the right to vote) after they’ve been released from prison go too far? Explain your reasoning!

Be sure to provide full explanations for your answers.  For more details, you can read the articles this piece was sourced from here:: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/federal_judge_strikes_down_floridas_voting_restoration_process_for_felons/

-Submitted by J. Floyd

GRaY, Project REAL, ProjectREALNV, ProjectREALOrg, restoring the rights, Rights & You, voting, voting in florida, voting rights, Voting Rights Restoration,

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