Florida leads the nation in ex-felon voter disenfranchisement

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In what is sure to be a booming echo of one of his campaign talking points, a study released Monday by the Sentencing Project shows Charlie Crist is spot on when he criticizes Governor Rick Scott’s handling of restoration of rights for ex-felons.

The study rates Florida the worst in the country for disenfranchisement of ex-felons when it comes to voting. Florida has a 10.4 percent rate of felony disenfranchisement. That’s more than 2 percent higher than the next closest contender, Mississippi.

In his effort to regain the Governor’s mansion, Crist has talked about steps he took in 2007 as the state’s top elected official to streamline the process for felons to get their voting rights back. It sped up the amount of time an ex-felon spent getting their civil rights restored by eliminating lengthy application and hearing processes. According to the Tampa Bay Times, under his administration, Crist and the Florida Cabinet, which included Alex Sink, restored the rights of 154,000 non-violent offenders. Conversely, Scott and his all-Republican cabinet have restored the rights of fewer than 1,000 people since mid-January.

When Scott took office, he implemented a wait time for convicted felons who had finished serving their sentences to either five or seven years depending on the offense. During that time a person cannot be rearrested for anything. There are also strict rules on paying fines forcing some returning citizens to restart the clock on their wait times for oversights on how much money they had to pay for things like restitution.

According to the Sentencing Project study, Florida also leads the nation in its restoration of rights process disproportionately affecting African-Americans.

The study notes an estimated 5.85 million Americans will be unable to vote nationwide due to felony convictions. About 75% of those individuals are either living in their communities under probation or parole supervision of have completed their sentences entirely.

Here is the breakdown of the top ten states for ex-felon voter disenfranchisement:

Florida – 10.4%

Mississippi – 8.3%

Kentucky – 7.4%

Virginia – 7.3%

Alabama – 7.2%

Tennessee – 7.1%

Wyoming – 6.0%

Nevada – 4.2%

Arizona – 4.2%

Georgia 3.8%


Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.