A close look at Florida’s new voting laws, which are likely to depress minority turnout:
In March 2011, Governor Rick Scott rolled back the right to vote for hundreds of thousands – perhaps as many as a million – Florida citizens who have criminal records. Florida has long had one of the harshest felony voting bans in the country, but Governor Scott not only reversed some moderate reforms put in place by former Governor Charlie Crist, he made the state’s policy even more restrictive than it was under the previous governor, Jeb Bush.
Under the new rules, even people with nonviolent convictions must wait five years after they complete all terms of their sentences before they are allowed to apply for restoration of civil rights; the clock resets if an individual is arrested, including for a misdemeanor, during the five-year waiting period. In some cases, people must wait seven years before being able to apply, and then they must appear in person for a hearing before the clemency board in Tallahassee.
Remember: all of this has to happen just to have the opportunity to ask for one’s right to vote back. After the waiting period, the application and the hearing, you could be denied restoration with no reason or explanation. And if that happens, you have to wait another two years before starting the process all over again.