Florida Governor Rick Scott has reversed the policy of his predecessor, fellow Republican Charlie Crist, of automatically restoring suffrage to non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad earlier reversed a similar policy in his state.
Florida once again requires ex-offenders to wait five years before applying to have their voting rights restored, rejoining Iowa, along with Virginia and Kentucky, as the only states that withhold suffrage for ex-offenders once released from state supervision. Florida actually leads the nation in denying voting rights to ex-offenders, and even more could be disenfranchised thanks to the efforts to purge the voter rolls. Overall, over 10% of Floridians are now disenfranchised, including nearly a quarter of African Americans.
In Governor Scott’s defense, Press Secretary Lane Wright claimed:
Some people look to make any issue they can about race or politics. The issue of convicted felons voting rights is about neither one.
Clearly the facts tell a different story.
This is part of a pattern throughout the South of disenfranchisement of people with past felony convictions that disproportionately affects African American and Hispanic voters. More than four million Southerners are now denied their right to vote because of these policies.
For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.