SB 1654 allows those who’ve completed prison and probation sentences for felonies to seek to have their voting and gun rights restored by petitioning judges. Currently, those convicted of felonies have those civil rights revoked, as well as the right to serve on a jury and run for public office, unless the governor offers clemency. The bill filed Wednesday would allow people to petition courts to restore those rights, and it allows state attorney’s offices to oppose the petitions.
In Florida, one of the consequences of committing a felony—and of being convicted—is losing all civil rights, unless the offender is granted clemency. Those rights include serving on a jury, obtaining a state occupational or professional license, running for office, and voting.
In Florida, ex-felons are required to wait five or seven years (depending on the seriousness of the offense) after sentence completion, including probation or parole, to apply to the state Clemency Board. The Clemency Board, comprising Gov. Rick Scott and three cabinet members, schedules only 300 cases for hearing each year, out of 6,000 applications. About 10,000 applications remain perpetually backlogged.
Restoring voting rights to former felons is a matter of basic fairness, these men and women have paid their debt to society. And once that debt has been fully paid, they should have an opportunity to assimilate back into society. Former felons should get a second chance. Restoring their voting rights gives “an opportunity for redemption and a chance to be full members of their community.”