In most states, voting rights are automatically restored once inmates pay their debt to society, but Florida is one of three states in which ex-cons have to file a formal request with the governor for clemency. The process can take years.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the system dates back to 1868 and was one of the original Jim Crow Laws designed to keep blacks from exercising their right to vote.
Larry Spalding with ACLU Florida, says, “The original intent of this law, without question, was to keep the newly enfranchised African-American citizens of this country from going to the polls, and it’s been pretty effective over the years. In fact, today we’ve got about 600,000 people in the state of Florida who fall into this category.”
Now that their legal challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court has failed, Spalding says the ACLU will ask the state Legislature to restore the rights of former felons, but that won’t be easy. It will take a constitutional amendment and a public vote to change the current system.