Scott, Clemency Board Granted Stay By Appellate Court In Battle Over Voting Rights Restoration

Apr 26, 2018

Florida Governor Rick Scott, third from left, and his cabinet make up the state's Executive Clemency Board
Credit Brittany Clark / Florida Governor's Office

Hours before a deadline set by a federal judge for Florida to overhaul its felon voting rights restoration system, the state’s Executive Clemency Board was given more time by a federal appeals court. Governor Rick Scott canceled an emergency meeting that would’ve seen the board vote on changes.

A federal appeals court has granted a stay on a lower court’s injunction while it reviews the Clemency Board’s appeal. The appellate court’s ruling cites a 1969 Supreme Court decision that said Florida’s rights restoration system does not violate the 14th Amendment. The decision is an apparent victory for Gov. Rick Scott, who announced a U.S. Senate run this month. Attorney General Pam Bondi has held firm in her stance since the injunction was filed in late March.

“We will appeal this to the highest level. Why? Because we have been following the law, we firmly believe it is the law in the state of Florida, and we plan on enforcing the laws,” Bondi said.

News of the decision came little more than an hour before a hastily-scheduled Clemency Board meeting for 9:30 Wednesday night. As the Board awaited results of their appeal, the Governor’s office published a draft of revised rules. The meeting was canceled minutes after the appellate court’s ruling.

In its current system, Florida’s felons have to wait a mandatory five years before they can vote again. And even then, they have to apply and be selected by the state clemency board. Florida’s voters will get their chance to demand change to the system in November, when a citizens’ initiative amendment will be on the ballot.

Meanwhile, a rally at Florida’s Capitol led by the Rev. Al Sharpton is planned for noon today. Organizers say it is aimed at sending a message to the Clemency board.