Florida’s lifetime ban on voting for people with past felony convictions is one of the harshest laws in the nation and its severe moral, racial, and economic consequences demand it be replaced, according to a new report released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The analysis comes as the Florida Supreme Court is evaluating a ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution and drastically reform the law.
Florida’s law is radically out-of-step with policies around the rest of the country. It is one of only three states with a lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions. Currently, the only way they can vote is if they’re granted clemency by the government. Individuals with past convictions can apply for rights restoration after waiting five years (in some cases seven), and completing all elements of their sentence including community supervision and paying any outstanding fees and fines.
This strict law impacts 21 percent of Florida’s voting-age African Americans and can be traced back to America’s Jim Crow past, explains author Erika Wood, a professor at New York Law School.