Restoring Right to Vote

Jeb Bush says the state has cleared a backlog of tens of thousands of former felons who applied to have their civil rights restored, including the right to vote.

Florida is one of only a handful of states that doesn’t automatically grant civil rights to felons who’ve done their time, and critics say it just sets the state up for more problems come election day.

Jorge Lara and his family cried tears of joy after the former cocaine trafficker was granted a full pardon by Jeb Bush and the Cabinet, including his right to vote.

But many others were not so lucky. The governor and Cabinet said they needed more time to consider Brendan Lockamy’s request. Others they rejected outright.

When a felon’s rights are restored, the Elections Office is supposed to be notified automatically, but that isn’t always the case, and since the numbers change every day, local elections officials fear they can’t possibly have an accurate list of who can and cannot vote by election day.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections, says, “We’re not sure how the state has coordinated these efforts and certainly to this point there seems to be a lot of serious flaws in the coordination of the process.”

The list of 47,000 felons scheduled to be purged from the roles this year is already the subject of several lawsuits. More than 40 other states automatically restore felons’ rights once they’ve completed their sentence, but Jeb Bush says he’s just fine with Florida’s system.

Gov. Bush says, “I’m comfortable with this process and I think it’s a fair process. It is emotionally draining and it’s very unique. It’s one of the more unique parts of my job.”

But being unique may come back to haunt Florida in November if former felons who should be able to vote are once again denied that right. Jeb Bush says a backlog of felons’ applications to have their rights restored that reached 62,000 two years ago has been reduced to only about 8,000.