Posted by: birdsongslaw | August 19, 2008

A Sentencing Project Disenfranchisement Update

Birdsong often gets Disenfranchisement Updates from the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C.  Here is their latest information on the status of felony disenfracnchisement in Florida:

 

 

 

August 7, 2008

Disenfranchisement: News/Updates

   
   
     
 
     
 
     
 
     
 
     

 

Florida: Continue Momentum, Disband Disenfranchisement

 

 

Contesting a Palm Beach Post editorialwhich praised Gov. Charlie Crist’s efforts to restore voting rights to 115,000 citizens with felony offenses, Mark Schlakman pointed out several misleading claims featured in the piece. According to the Parole Commission, Schlakman stated, the 115,000 individuals whose rights were restored “included about 90,000 cases that date back to the early ’80s and about 25,000 more recent cases pending final action by the board. Therefore, the 115,000 figure appears to be at least somewhat illusory.” He also pointed out that more than 300,000 older rights restoration cases identified by the Department of Corrections for review last spring were deemed ineligible under the new rules. Schlakman further broke down the administrative process: the Florida Department of Corrections transmits the names of about 4,000 additional ex-offenders to the Parole Commission for rights restoration review each month after they are released or their probation is terminated. The reality is that the rights restoration process must be reengineered to address the public interest and the needs of ex-offenders.

“With another stroke of his pen, Gov. Crist, with support from at least two Cabinet members, could restore the civil rights of many more ex-offenders who have completed their sentences, enabling them to register to vote. Only then will the rights restoration process reflect the fundamental fairness that the governor has been talking about,” Schlakman concluded.
Prior to last year’s policy change, an average of about 7,000 persons got back their rights each year, according to the News-Press. There are now currently 1,000 cases that come in monthly and 57,000 cases await eligibility notice. Marshall Bland recently received his eligibility notice. “It’s something that I thought would never happen,” he said. “Now I’m going to do everything in my power to give back to my community. And voting can help.” Still, the News-Press and the Florida Times-Union reported many do not know that their rights have been restored, or know about the policy change.
“I walked around with my head down, thinking I can’t vote,” a newly restored voter, Charles Russell, was quoted as saying in the Florida Times- Union. “Come to find out, it’s a totally different story. I can voice my opinion now instead of being pushed back in a corner.”
In an effort to continue momentum and completely erase disenfranchisement practices in the state, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) held its statewide annual convention in Tampa, where police, advocates, professors and formerly incarcerated individuals discussed the ramifications of losing civil rights. FRRC is pushing for an amendment on the statewide ballot that would automatically restore voting rights, WMNF 88.5 FMreported. Also in support of reform is Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut who is encouraging all residents to register to vote and update addresses, the Gainesville Guardian reported. “I’m very pleased that felons that have paid their debt to society have the opportunity to vote and make a difference in the elections” Chestnut was quoted as saying. “It’s imperative for felons to know and follow through in the process to get their voting fully restored.”
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 
     
 

 

 

 

 

 

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