"I don't believe any felon should have an automatic restoration of rights," the Republican Cabinet member told reporters Thursday morning. "I believe you should have to ask, and there should be an appropriate waiting period" of three to five years.
Democrats and civil rights advocates said that if her proposal is approved by the Cabinet, in its role as the clemency board, it would turn back the clock to a dark time in Florida, putting the state back in line with only two others, Kentucky and Virginia, that require felons to apply for restoration of their rights. Some states have waiting periods, but most restore rights automatically when sentences are completed.
"It's hard to think that there isn't a little bit of politics in this because it's so extreme and the basis for it is so out of line with so much development that we've had here in Florida," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU.
They also questioned why Bondi was proposing the change now, four years after former Gov. Charlie Crist and the previous Cabinet changed a policy that had been in effect in Florida for 162 years. Bondi's predecessor, Bill McCollum, cast the lone dissenting vote in that rule change.
"Nothing has happened that warrants us discarding it," said state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.
Joyner said she was concerned that the timing suggests it may be aimed at making it more difficult for felons to return to the voter rolls on the eve of another big presidential year. Many are black, she acknowledged, who tend to vote Democratic.
Bondi, a former prosecutor elected in November, has not formalized the proposed rules but expects to have them ready for a vote at a special clemency meeting in two weeks.
"I fundamentally and philosophically oppose the concept of the automatic restoration of civil rights," she said in a statement. "I believe that every convicted felon must actively apply for the restoration of his or her civil rights and that there should be a mandatory waiting period before applying. The restoration of civil rights for any felon must be earned, it is not an entitlement."
Under the policy put into place by Crist, felons convicted of nonviolent crimes who have fulfill their sentences are allowed to vote, hold public office, apply for occupational licenses and sit on juries without applying for clemency, a cumbersome process that can take years. The 2007 change also expedited the process for felons convicted of some violent crimes.
Prior to 2007, criminals convicted of lesser felonies could apply to get their rights restored immediately, but others had to wait at least five years after completing their sentences before applying for a hearing before the board.
Bond said she believes felons who had completed their sentences should have to wait three to five years before they can appeal to have their rights restored. She also wants to add more non-violent crimes, including public corruption, to those that disqualify felons from the automatic restoration process.
And she said the waiting period will allow help state officials handle a backlog of 100,000 applicants trying to have their rights restored.
Florida first banned voting by felons in 1845, and the ban was put into the state constitution in 1868.
In recent decades, controversy surrounding civil rights restoration has clouded Florida's elections.
Voting rights for felons was one of the issues in the disputed 2000 presidential election, when thousands of people, mostly Democratic-leaning black voters, were wrongly purged from voter rolls because of an error-riddled state voter database that misidentified them as felons.
Shortly after Bondi announced her intentions, Democratic lawmakers held a previously scheduled press conference to urge passage of a bill sponsored by state Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, that would effectively make it easier for felons to obtain occupational licenses after they complete their criminal sentences.
Smith said Bondi was appealing to conservative voters with her calls for slowing down rights restoration.
"It's tough on crime, bumper-sticker politics," Smith said. "But that flies in the face of what we've seen in other states, even Texas, where people are looking at the economics of crime. Corrections is costly, and the quicker you can integrate someone back into society after they serve their time, the better."
Joyner said, "There has been a process, since Gov. Crist, that should be allowed to stay in place," Joyner said. "We are not talking about just letting it remain easier for non-violent, ex-felons to become citizens again," Joyner said. "What's wrong with that."
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam supports a review of the clemency rules and backs Bondi's effort to add more disqualifying crimes, his spokesman Sterling Ivey said in an e-mail.
Putnam "supports incorporating such crimes to stop public officials who abuse the electoral trust from automatically being allowed to vote or run for office again," Ivey wrote.
The other two members of the clemency board, Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, did not respond to questions for comment. All on the board are Republicans.
Link to Original Article
The Florida teenager who was arrested two weeks ago for causing a small explosion on the campus of her high school will not be charged with a crime. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was arrested by police in Bartow, Florida, after conducting an unauthorized science experiment which lightly damaged an eight ounce plastic water bottle.
At the time, Wilmot faced possible charges for “possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property.” If she had been convicted, she could have faced up to five years in prison.
Ned Resnikoff | MSNBC.com 16 May 2013 Hits:318 Florida
Two top Democratic fundraisers in Florida have committed to providing the money and know-how to get the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the state ballot in 2014.
"I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot," attorney John Morgan said late on Tuesday.
Morgan, who routinely hosts presidents and national political figures at his Orlando-area home, recently signed on as chairman of People United for Medical Marijuana-Florida, a grassroots campaign that operated on a shoestring until now.
Morgan was recruited by...
Barbara Liston | Reuter's 22 Apr 2013 Hits:311 Florida
On September 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street coalesced into sudden view, built from long work by many organizers, the promptings of Adbusters magazine, and the accumulated frustration, anger and desperation of decades of escalating class warfare by financial and corporate elites against ordinary people. A small group of young people near Lake Worth, Florida recognized themselves in the actions of the mostly young people in New York, and began to plan their own Occupation.
People on local union, Democratic Party, progressive and other e-mail lists were invited to a rally at...
Mike Budd | Palm Beach Progressive Post 22 Jan 2013 Hits:364 Florida
Internal email messages uncovered by Health News Florida reveal that Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is knowingly citing inaccurate cost estimates to justify his refusal to expand Florida’s Medicaid program. Though the governor’s office is fully aware that the numbers are wrong, Scott continues to use them anyway, the documents show.
Florida, which has one of the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, could extend health coverage to about one million low-income residents by accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. But the governor — an ardent Obamacare opponent — has...
Tara Culp-Ressler | Think Progress 08 Jan 2013 Hits:710 Florida
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as the state's chief executive as a Republican and then ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as an independent, announced on Twitter on Friday night that he's switching to the Democratic Party.
The announcement fanned speculation that Crist was gearing up to seek to regain his old job from Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Crist sent out a Tweet that said, "Proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President (at)Barack Obama!"
The Tweet included a...
Gary Fineout | Associated Press 08 Dec 2012 Hits:663 Florida
As the St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church vans pulled up to the C. Blythe Andrews library polling place to let congregants out to vote, a line already snaked out the voting entrance. A table was set up on one end of the library’s parking lot where volunteers served fried fish and hush puppies. A DJ blared gospel music that could be heard blocks away. It was after-church Sunday, the first and only Sunday of “Souls to the Polls” in most of Florida, and the second...
Brentin Mock and Voting Rights Watch | the Nation 30 Oct 2012 Hits:629 Florida
On the last day to register for the 2012 election, new Democratic voters outnumber the GOP by six-to-one or more.
Don’t get depressed by the latest polls with Mitt Romney pulling ahead in Florida or by reports of the GOP’s plans to steal the election there by falsifying Democratic voter registration files. Tuesday is the final day to register to vote for the presidential election in Florida and Democrats have trounced the GOP’s efforts to register voters.
Consider these numbers from the Florida Secretary of State’s...
Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 09 Oct 2012 Hits:935 Florida
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Seeking to capitalize on his commanding debate performance last week, Mitt Romney tried to turn the enthusiasm of large crowds during a three-day visit to Florida into momentum to carry a state that, by all accounts, is crucial to his path to the White House.
His effort to capture a state that President Obama won in 2008 came on a day when the usual pattern of the race was reversed: while Mr. Romney has been criticized by some Republicans for spending too...
Trip Gabriel | The New York Times 08 Oct 2012 Hits:496 Florida
Despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms, about 500 African-Americans are gathered in Rowlett Park for an end-of-summer day of barbecuing, dancing and playing cards. It’s the fifth annual Old School Picnic, a community park jam that brings together two black neighborhoods that were torn apart when the College Hill and Ponce de Leon public housing projects were razed in 2000. Earlier that morning, President Barack Obama held a massive campaign rally in nearby St. Petersburg, trying to turn out every last...
Brentin Mock | The Nation 29 Sep 2012 Hits:682 Florida
Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant.
The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states...
By Matea Gold, Joseph Tanfani and Melanie Mason | LosAngeles Times Politics 29 Sep 2012 Hits:771 Florida
In a partial victory for voter rights and immigrant groups, Florida residents who were mistakenly removed from the voter rolls this year because the state classified them as noncitizens will be returned to the rolls and allowed to vote in November.
The Florida Department of State, which initiated the review of noncitizens on the voter rolls, also agreed Wednesday to inform the 2,625 people on the list who are eligible to vote that their voting rights had been fully restored. Still unresolved is whether Florida...
Lizette Alvarez | The New York Times 13 Sep 2012 Hits:656 Florida
Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott loathes Obamacare so much that he turned down $40 million in federal health care funds that would keep hundreds of disabled kids at home with their parents, rather than warehoused in nursing homes. So says the Department of Justice, whose civil rights division recently investigated the situation in Florida.
ABC News reported this weekend that, in a letter to Florida's attorney general, the Justice Department cited the case of a "5-year-old child, a quadriplegic after a car accident, who had been...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 11 Sep 2012 Hits:3621 Florida
On September 12, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and partner organizations will host a coalition of individuals impacted by restrictive voting regulations in Florida sharing their stories about combating disenfranchisement and informing voters about their rights at “Let Me Vote: The Faces of Voter Suppression Become the Voices of Voter Empowerment.” The event marks the launch of the ACLU of Florida’s “Let Me Vote” campaign, part of a nationwide ACLU program of the same name aiming to get accessible,...
ACLU Florida 10 Sep 2012 Hits:486 Florida
They were classic buttoned-up conservatives, but I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you guys performance artists?” "No," Stevens snorted.
Just a few minutes earlier, two men who identified themselves as Robert Stevens and John Nelson had handed me a flyer. It explained that they wanted the state of Florida to pass a “Protect the Polls law” under which “anyone suspected of committing voter fraud can be fired upon – provided the weapon is registered and operated by its licensed owner.”
The two 28-year-olds, who said...
Arun Gupta | AlterNet 30 Aug 2012 Hits:814 Florida
Activist group Code Pink, protesting this week at the Republican National Convention, marched through the streets of Tampa on Monday dressed as a group of giant vaginas to speak out against the GOP's "war on women".
The group also congregated in a demonstration outside Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition rally, among several other events, holding signs with slogans such as "My body, my vagina, my decision," and "Can't say it, don't legislate it."
"Eve Ensler famously said: 'My vagina's furious and it needs to talk.' Our...
Common Dreams Staff 29 Aug 2012 Hits:747 Florida
Thousands of Republicans from around the country will descend upon Tampa, Florida next week for the Republican National Convention, and if recent history is any guide, so too will hundreds of protesters.
To prepare, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee has ordered the Orient Road Jail, a 1,700 bed prison in Tampa, emptied, relocating some inmates to another nearby prison and releasing others on bond. The entire facility has been transformed into a one-stop booking, detention, and bond-issuance center capable of handling large numbers of arrests,...
Adam Peck | ThinkProgress 24 Aug 2012 Hits:894 Florida
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday flatly rejected any talk of expanding the number of early-voting days in the state prior to this year's presidential election despite a federal court ruling that a new state law could hurt minority participation.
And the Republican governor went further, hinting that he may take action against the lone local election supervisor who is not going along with a plan to offer only eight days of early voting instead of at least 12 days.
State officials are scrambling to come...
Gary Fineout | The Miami Herald 21 Aug 2012 Hits:527 Florida
Florida's disgraced former GOP chairman says the party had meetings about "keeping blacks from voting"
Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in 2008(Credit: AP/Reinhold Matay)
In the debate over new laws meant to curb voter fraud in places like Florida, Democrats always charge that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote of liberal voting blocs like blacks and young people, while Republicans just laugh at such ludicrous and offensive accusations. That is, every Republican except for Florida’s former Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, who, scorned by...
Alex Seitz-Wald | Salon 31 Jul 2012 Hits:1014 Florida
After evaluating answers to our initial, detailed questionnaire, our Steering Committee is pleased to recommend the following candidates for local, state, and national office. These candidates have demonstrated an understanding of the social, economic, and international issues confronting our nation.
Their responses are in accord with the liberal, progressive values of PDAPBC. We believe they are candidates in the best tradition of the Democratic Party. *Starred candidates are involved in Democratic primaries.
Congressional District 18: Patrick Murphy* Congressional District 20: Alcee L. Hastings State Senate District 27: Jeff Clemens* State Representative District...
Palm Beach Progressive Post 31 Jul 2012 Hits:839 Florida
Florida Governor Rick Scott has spoken a lot about cutting government spending, lowering taxes for corporations, and removing social safety nets that millions of people rely on. But while he is busy eliminating more than $3 billion from public classrooms, his administration is simultaneously racking up hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal expenses to defend several of its own unconstitutional laws and fight frivolous battles in federal court over Obamacare.
To date, Rick Scott has authorized more than $888,000 for legal costs. Nearly...
Adam Peck | ThinkProgress Justice 31 Jul 2012 Hits:747 Florida
Despite a warning from the Centers for Disease Control, it's the latest move by the Florida governor to gut public services.
Welcome to Sunshine State: Republican-run since 1998, tea party-controlled since 2010, and fast becoming one of the lowest-service states in the nation. Which helps explain how lawmakers shut down its only tuberculosis clinic last month, just as the worst outbreak of the infectious disease in America's recent history flared up with a vengeance in Jacksonville, Miami, and who knows where...
Adam Weinstein 09 Jul 2012 Hits:1147 Florida
LaVon Bracy, 63, understands the stakes in Florida’s current voting rights battle all too well. Her father, the Rev. Thomas Wright, is a civil rights luminary and former…
The U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Florida to force it to stop purging its voter rolls of what it alleges are up to 180,000 non-citizen…
Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced he would defy the Department of Justice and push forward with his purge of thousands of registered voters. The process has targeted hundreds of…
Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because…
Florida ought to know better. And must do better, particularly on the issue of voting and discrimination.
But, then again, we are talking about Florida, the state of Bush v. Gore…
On Wednesday, Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher (D) told ThinkProgress her office has rejected the error-ridden list of alleged non-citizen voters sent to county officials by Gov. Rick…
On May 20, 1865 United States General Edward M. McCook gave the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the state of Florida. It was a moment that…
According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge ordered by Governor…
Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D) told ThinkProgress today that Gov. Rick Scott was engaging in a “blatant attempt to supress voter turnout.” Scott is currently involved in a…
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