Thursday, April 5, 2007

florida disenfranchisement, 1868-2007

dang. it finally happened. from the st. petersburg times:


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Most Florida felons who complete their sentences will have their voting and other civil rights more quickly restored under a rule approved Thursday by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and the state clemency board.

All but the most violent felons would avoid the need to get on a long list for a hearing before the board, which sometimes takes years.

The board voted 3-1 on the immediate change. Attorney General Bill McCollum, another Republican, strongly objected to altering the Jim Crow-era ban on felons automatically getting their rights back once they finish their sentences.

But Crist was emphatic: "I believe in simple human justice and that when somebody has paid their debt to society, it is paid in full. There's a time to move on, a time to give them an opportunity to have redemption, to have a chance to become productive citizens again." ...

...Still, Crist's plan was a compromise, carving out murderers and other violent felons who would still have to either go before the board for a hearing or at least be subject to review by board members without a hearing in some cases.

..."I believe in appropriate punishment, I'm 'Chaingang Charlie,'" Crist said. "But I believe in justice."

That drew an "Amen" from several in the audience at the meeting, including advocates for felons.

A recent federal lawsuit challenged Florida's rights ban on grounds that it disproportionately affected blacks. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument in 2005, noting Florida first banned felon voting in 1845 - before blacks were allowed to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court later let that decision stand.

The ban was put into the state constitution in 1868.

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