Up to 30,000 Florida felons could have their right to vote restored in time for next year’s election under a proposed agreement between the Florida Department of Corrections and civil libertarians, black legislators and several grass-roots organizations, the Miami Herald reports.
The agreement comes in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, lawmakers and other groups alleging that the Corrections Department deprived prisoners on the verge of release by not helping them with the necessary paperwork to get rights restored. That help is required under Florida law.
Florida is one of seven states that does not automatically restore rights to felons after they finish serving their sentences. Instead, they must submit an application to the Department of Corrections, which forwards the information to the state’s Executive Clemency Board. The board ultimately decides who gets their rights restored. Critics say the procedure disenfranchises one in seven black men in the state.
Under the agreement, the Florida Department of Corrections will send to the state clemency office the names of felons who can have their rights restored without a hearing. The Clemency Board — which comprises Gov. Jeb Bush and other members of his Cabinet — and the Corrections Department would have to mail notices to those ex-felons that their rights have been restored.
ACLU officials said the settlement affects nearly 125,000 former inmates who were released between 1992 and 2001, and who have completed probation and paid all their fines. Of that number, an estimated 30,000 would qualify to have their rights restored without a hearing.