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Al Jacquet Files Bill to Restore Felon Voting Rights

Florida House Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Lantana, has filed a bill to reinstate voting rights to felons three years after they've served their sentences. 

HJR 565 would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to automatically reinstate the voting rights of individuals who have "paid their debt to society" three years after completing their sentence.

Florida has a high number of disenfranchised voters based on past felony convictions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, over 1.6 million Floridians cannot vote due to past felony convictions. 

One in five African Americans, who are incarcerated at a much higher rate, cannot vote in Florida. 

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist revised the rules for clemency when he was governor in 2007, allowing some felons to have their voting rights automatically restored after completing their sentences. 

Gov. Rick Scott eliminated those reforms in 2011. 

Jacquet said the legislation was important for Floridians who want to start a clean slate. 

“In order to reintegrate back into the community, an individual who has served their debt to society needs to know that they are on equal footing with their fellow Floridians,”  he said. “There is no right more powerful for an American citizen than the right to make your voice heard in the voting booth. It’s time Florida stopped unfairly barring those who have made a mistake in their past from being a part of their democracy in the future.”

Comments

Reynolds Vs. Sims guarantees this as a fundamental right of all citizens. Did they pay their debt to society or not? And although well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable. In addition, The Eighth Amendment 'succinctly prohibits 'excessive' sanctions,' and demands that 'punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to the offense. A blanket ban on felons is unconstitutional. Prisoners losing freedoms while in prison does not mean they should lose all their civil rights for all of eternity. Not to mention, only us and Kentucky have arbitrary lifetime bans on felons voting. Really? We wanna be like Kentucky on this?

If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote. The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison. After all, the unfortunate truth is that most people who walk out of prison will be walking back in. Read more about this issue on our website here [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/voting-news/felon-voting/538-answering-the-challenges-to-felon-disenfranchisement ] and our congressional testimony here: [ http://judiciary.house.gov/_files/hearings/pdf/Clegg100316.pdf ]

I read the piece you shared on ceousa. Thank you for sharing.I would like to point out though that the proposed bill would allow these people to vote only after 3 years of their release from prison, not immediately after being released.

A felony is a serious crime against society. Why should a person who has shown this contempt toward society be allowed to vote?

By definition, upon conviction, a felon faces and serves whatever penalty is imposed by the state for their crime. Then, after completing all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation, a felon resumes his/her place as a free citizen in society. We presume innocent until proven guilty, and this includes the right to participate in that most fundamental right of free people, the right to vote. Our Declaration spells it out: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." A person may have "shown this contempt", but life goes on and we turn the page. Presuming the best is a statement about ourselves and our commitment to just, legitimate government.

Florida lawmakers have proposed making graffiti on roadside historical signs a felony. Plenty of felonies are non violent.

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