Friday, November 17, 2006

Crist May Have Trouble Getting Voting Rights Restored

Incoming Governor Charlie Crist may have hit a stumbling block already. During the campaign, Crist vowed to support the automatic restoration of voting rights for convicted felons - once they served their time. Now, the other three members of the FL Cabinet - which also serves as the clemency board - are expressing concerns over the issue. The point of contention appears to be other the distinction between violent and non-violent offenders.

(St. Pete Times) It's not clear whether Crist is committed to restoring voting rights of all felons who have served their sentences.

During his campaign, Crist didn't distinguish between violent and nonviolent crimes when he said he supported restoring voting rights to felons. Asked about the distinction Thursday, Crist's transition team did not provide an answer clarifying his position.

Yet Crist told the Times last month that "if somebody has paid their debt to society, either we recognize that they have or we don't."

Representatives for incoming Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, and Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson, a Republican, said they supported limited automatic restoration of voting rights for felons, though not violent offenders convicted of murder and sexual offenses, among other crimes.

Incoming Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum said Thursday that he disagreed with Crist, indicating he didn't support automatic restoration. He added that he hasn't talked to Crist about the issue yet.

"I do not believe that I'm prepared to say today, or may I expect to say in the near future, maybe at all, that we ought to automatically restore any particular category of criminals' rights," McCollum said in a news conference. "We'll see if there are some lesser crimes that get automatic restoration, but my gut tells me that will be very few and that category still ought to be reviewed by somebody."

The Tallahassee Sentinel tends to side with Crist on automatic restoration, if for no other reason than to insert more efficiency in state government.
Florida is one of three states that still require felons to go through a cumbersome process requesting clemency, which dates back to 1868, to regain their civil rights. As of July 1, a backlog of 5,600 felons were waiting for formal review of their cases.
Perhaps limitations on a clemency measure would help make it more palatable to the Cabinet. Limiting automatic restoration to first time offenders and other similar limitations may be worth looking into.

We'll keep watching it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not so sure I agree with automatic restoration for ANY felon. If they are truly rehabilitated and wish to reenter the mainstream of society, let them go through a screening process and prove their worth.