Federal judge strikes down Florida’s felon voting rights restoration process

Last Updated: Thursday, February 01, 2018, 9:16 PM EST

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker overturned Florida’s voting rights restoration system for convicted felons Thursday, which bars many ex-felons from voting in the state, the Associated Press reported.

The federal judge ruled that Florida has violated their citizens’ constitutional rights by permanently revoking the right to vote, violating both the first and 14th amendments, and that the state needs to change the policy as soon as possible.

Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said he will decide soon what Florida should do to fix the process.

Gov. Rick Scott’s office has released the following statement on the ruling:

“The discretion of the clemency board over the restoration of felons’ rights in Florida has been in place for decades and overseen by multiple governors. The process is outlined in Florida’s Constitution, and today’s ruling departs from precedent set by the United States Supreme Court.

The Governor believes that convicted felons should show that they can lead a life free of crime and be accountable to their victims and our communities. While we are reviewing today’s ruling, we will continue to defend this process in the court.”

In Florida felons must get their voting rights restored by even after they've completed their sentence. 

The Florida Constitution allows the governor and cabinet members to restore voting rights. In 2011, Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2011 put in a process that requires most ex-felons to wait at least five years.

The Brennan Center for Justice says that between 2011 and 2015, the Florida clemency board had restored voting rights to fewer than 2,000 Floridians, while the disenfranchised population grew by nearly 150,000. 

Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not allow felons to get their rights restored after they complete their sentences.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.