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Florida Ex-Felons Sue State Clemency Board Over Voting Rights

CFO Jeff Atwater and Gov. Rick Scott discuss Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform
CFO Jeff Atwater and Gov. Rick Scott discuss Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform

Fewer felons are getting their voting rights restored under Governor Rick Scott than in the past two administrations. Attorney Brittnie Baker said Scott has denied her clients the right to once again vote because of traffic violations or admitting they drank or used drugs.

“It seems like he bases whether someone has turned their life around on whether they have traffic violations or have continued to use alcohol after their felony conviction," she said. "I don’t see how they have any bearing on the right to vote, obviously, and that’s why we’ve challenged this process.”

Baker, who is part of the Fair Elections Legal Network, said Scott has vague standards for voting rights restoration. More than a million and a half people in Florida can’t vote.

“It’s a pretty big impact," she said. "That’s actually 10.4 percent of Florida’s voting age population, which is absolutely gigantic to disenfranchise that large of a percentage of your population.”

Governor Scott heads the board, which is made up of made up of Scott and three other top state office holders.

He says he's not required to grant clemency and said to do so is an act of mercy.

He put waiting periods in place upon entering office in 2011, which have increased application backlogs. The board only meets four times a year.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.