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Local faith leaders pushing for voting rights restored for felons

(WCTV)
Published: Mar. 30, 2018 at 1:15 PM EDT
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By: Erika Fernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News

March 30, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Local faith leaders are calling for action by Governor Rick Scott to restore voting rights to convicted felons. Local pastors say they are trying to help convicted felons to become normal citizens again, but say Gov. Rick Scott denying them of their civil rights is post-prison punishment.

Federal Judge Mark Walker ruled the clemency system in Florida is fatally flawed and unconstitutional. He said it violates the first and 14th amendments, and gave Gov. Rick Scott and state officials 30 days to devise a new plan. This group of faith leaders said they hope the governor doesn't appeal that, but instead, leads Florida to a fair process that restores both voting rights and civil rights of former felons.

"They can't vote, they don’t have their civil rights so they've been reduced to less than a human being. If you can't vote in this great country, or have civil rights in this country, it brings you back to the scary days of Jim Crowe-ism," said Dr. R.B. Holmes of the Tallahassee Chapter of the National Action Network.

Right now, those who have served time have to wait between 5 and 7 years to even apply for clemency and restoration of rights. Gov. Scott is already helping former felons find jobs and receive counseling, but this group of leaders and activists say restoring their rights is the next step.

On Tuesday, Governor Scott's office released a statement on the Judge Walker 's order, reading in part, "The Governor continues to stand with victims of crime. He believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.”