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Ag Commissioner Candidate Rep. Matt Caldwell On Clemency, Felon Rights Restoration

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, debates on the House floor May. 5 2017.
Florida House of Representatives

Florida voters will be asked in November whether to automatically restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. This comes as the state clemency board has been ordered to revise its process for restoring rights. Now some state candidates are weighing in.

Republican Representative Matt Caldwell is running for Agriculture Commissioner, one of the positions that makes up the clemency board. And he agrees the process for restoring felon rights is in need of an overhaul. Yet he questions the motives of a constitutional amendment that would only restore voting rights.

“I’m very dubious about that. If you are rehabilitated and deserve the restoration of your civil rights, why not receive all of your rights? Unfortunately, these constitutional amendments seem to be reflective of politics not principle most of the time.”

Caldwell says he believes in an automatic restoration process for non-violent offenders, but those charged with crimes like and rape and murder should have to meet a higher threshold.

“If you committed a non-violent felony and you went through your prison term, finished your probation, your name should automatically go on the list for the cabinet to bring up and the only reason you wouldn’t get your rights restored is if a cabinet member pulled the name off and would have to give a reason to the other cabinet members," he said. 

Caldwell is one of six candidates for the office so far, along with fellow Republican Senator Denise Grimsley. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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