PNS Daily Newscast - November 16, 2018 

Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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Report: Florida an Outlier in Denying Voting Rights

Florida's harsh voting ban for past felony convictions keeps 1.6 million people from casting their votes. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
Florida's harsh voting ban for past felony convictions keeps 1.6 million people from casting their votes. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
December 20, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Although the era of Jim Crow laws is history, an estimated 21 percent of Florida's voting-age African-American males are not able to vote, according to a new report.

The report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found the state's lifetime ban on voting for those with felony convictions, and its long, slow clemency process disenfranchise 1.6 million people, more than any state in the nation.

The report authors say harsh disenfranchisement laws often lead to decreased voter turnout even among those who are not incarcerated, which Pamela Goodman, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, calls an outrageous cycle.

"The bottom line is, these are people who have done their time, paid their restitution, and are sadly and mistakenly not having their rights restored," she said.

Right now, those with past felony convictions can only apply to the state Clemency Board to have their voting rights restored after finishing all portions of their sentence, waiting five years, and paying any outstanding fees and fines. The report notes that over the past two decades, more than 20 states have changed their laws to make voting-rights restoration easier and faster for those with past convictions.

The Clemency Board meets just four times per year, and at its most recent meeting heard 48 petitions for voting-rights restorations. But Goodman said there are 12,000 appeals on file, and that doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who haven't filed for restoration of their rights because the process is so complicated, expensive and time-consuming.

"Truly, it comes down to just one elected individual, our governor, who has slowed this to the state that it is today," she added.

The Florida Supreme Court is evaluating a ballot initiative that would amend the state's constitution and drastically reform the law. If approved, it would go before voters in November of 2018.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL