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Prison Reform Group Calls for Full Restoration of Felons' Rights

Civil rights leaders plan to march to mobilize Floridians to vote for Amendment 4 so that former felons will automatically have their civil and voting rights restored. (Chris Chitaroni/Twenty20)
Civil rights leaders plan to march to mobilize Floridians to vote for Amendment 4 so that former felons will automatically have their civil and voting rights restored. (Chris Chitaroni/Twenty20)
April 26, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Reverend Al Sharpton and other local and national church and civic leaders are expected to rally in Tallahassee Thursday, calling for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.

The issue of felons' rights has long been controversial but in recent weeks a judge struck down the state's current system of restoring voting rights to felons and ordered a new system to be instituted by April 26.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet had a month to revamp the rules, but it was only last night that he called on the Cabinet to have an emergency meeting to address the issue after failed attempts to challenge the ruling in court.

Lakey Love, spokesperson with the Campaign for Prison Reform, is advocating for the complete restoration of rights to former felons. She takes offense that the governor and Cabinet waited until the last minute to address the issue.

"It is a strategic attack on the community that's directly impacted,” says Love, “so not just people who are formerly incarcerated but their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters and husbands and brothers and uncles and aunts."

The governor's office called the judge's ruling haphazard and had requested a stay. Hundreds of millennials are expected to join religious and civil-rights leaders in a march and ending with a rally on the state Capitol starting at noon.

When Scott called for an emergency clemency board meeting for 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Love said she scrambled to get families, faith groups and civil-rights leaders to show up and speak out at the public meeting.

"And I think it's really important that he understands that the restriction of rights affects us every hour of every day," says Love.

The current legal battle could all be changed come November when voters will get to decide whether ex-felons should automatically have their voting rights restored. Floridians for a Fair Democracy, a political committee, was able to collect enough petitions to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences, completed parole and paid restitution.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL