Just one week after a court ordered the state to help inmates fill out a form to get their rights back as they’re released, Jeb Bush is scrapping the form altogether.
The governor’s office says the state already files a request for reinstatement of rights by computer, so they don’t need the extra paperwork, but at least one former inmate says the policy shift seems more like a way to keep people from voting.
Jeb Bush has decided to abolish a form that inmates fill out to get their voting rights back after doing their time. He argues the Department of Corrections already files the requests for the inmates electronically.
That doesn’t ring true to Sam Heyward. Heyward is one of hundreds of people whose name wrongly showed up on Florida’s problem-plagued potential felon list.
“In light of what has happened, you know, and with all the confusion right now, just for them to tell me everything’s been taken care of, it’s just not good enough,” says Sam.
Heyward was convicted of a felony more than 20 years ago but turned his life around and got his rights back. Suddenly, there he was on a list of people to be purged from the voter rolls.
Now, Heyward wonders if this latest decision by the governor isn’t just another way to keep former felons who may lean toward democratic candidates, away from the polls.
The Jeb Bush administration says the governor’s decision to scrap the form is not part of a deliberate attempt to keep felons from voting, just the opposite, his office says it’s about making it easier to process the applications.
Jacob Dipietre, governor's spokesman, says, “There’s absolutely no reason why the Department of Corrections has to send two forms with the exact same information at the exact same time to the Office of Executive Clemency.”
Bush’s decision came just a week after a court ordered the Department of Corrections to help inmates fill out the form. His spokesman denies the governor’s thumbing his nose at the ruling.
Florida is one of about a half-dozen states that do not automatically restore voting rights once inmates complete their sentence.