Over 10 percent of Florida adults are barred from voting

It might sound like a headline from before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but in 2015, over 1.5 million people have been stripped of their right to vote in Florida due to felony convictions.

Florida voting

Photo credit: Watchdog.org

In a 2014 interview with Meet the Press, Kentucky Senator and GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul called felony disenfranchisement the “biggest voting rights issue of our day,” adding that there could be “a million people who are being prevented from voting from having a previous felony conviction.”

In fact, Paul’s estimate was far too low.

A study by the Sentencing Project, a prison reform group, estimated that 5.85 million Americans, a quarter of them Floridians, were unable to vote in the 2014 midterm elections due to disenfranchisement.

Florida is one of 11 states that denies ex-convicts the right to vote even if they have been released from prison and are no longer on parole or probation. Some states restore felons’ voting rights when they have completed probation, while others only deny the vote to those actually incarcerated. In Maine and Vermont, prisoners can vote by absentee ballot.

According to the Sentencing Project study, only 25 percent of those disenfranchised are actually incarcerated, while 45 percent are no longer at any stage in the correctional process.

“[Disenfranchisement] is a very counterproductive message to send out…  Recidivism is high. It should be the interest of the community to have a person reintegrated and connected with a positive institution,” said Marc Mauer, director of the Sentencing Project.

Florida allows ex-felons to apply to regain their voting rights if they remain arrest-free for five to seven years after the end of their probation, but does not automatically restore voting rights under any circumstances. In 2007, former Gov. Charlie Crist made provisions for automatic re-enfranchisement in certain cases, but Gov. Rick Scott reversed Crist’s policy after taking office in 2011.

The issue has become especially politically charged in Florida, which in addition to boasting the nation’s highest rate of disenfranchisement, is home to two GOP presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Read more at Watchdog.org.

By Grayson Quay | Watchdog Arena

Watchdog

Watchdog.org is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity.

Comments

9 thoughts on “Over 10 percent of Florida adults are barred from voting

  1. J. C. Smith says:

    What about the ones who can’t vote because they’re under 18?

    What about the ones who can’t vote because they’re not American citizens?

    OK, there’s two more stupid arguments.

    Felons should NOT vote. They lost that privilege. Keep it that way.

  2. rogerclegg says:

    If you aren’t willing to follow the law
    yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else,
    which is what you do when you vote. The
    right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a
    case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned
    over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most
    people who walk out of prison will be walking back in. Read more about this issue on our website
    here [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement ] and our congressional testimony here: [ http://judiciary.house.gov/_files/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf
    ].

  3. PI by Nature says:

    Florida is a swing state where even 2 or 3 percent can flip an election. 10 percent is not an insignificant number in a state like Florida. The question is: is permanent revocation of voting rights after a conviction excessive punishment in violation of Amendment 8? If one has completed all steps of a criminal court sentence for a felony (note: a sex offender having to register for life will never do so), why not restore voting rights? This should be launched as an 8A case/

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  4. jbt1844 says:

    If I understand the stats from the attached study, 1 in 10 adult Floridians are felons and over 1 in 5 African Americans in Florida are felons. Is this true?

    1. Doug says:

      Statistics never lie.

      1. buzzman1 says:

        Mark Twain once said “There are 3 kinds of lies – Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.

  5. buzzman1 says:

    Most of these wouldnt vote anyway. And this is a states rights issue. If Floridians don’t like the law then it is up to them to change it.

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