Six months before a presidential election that is expected to be decided by a narrow margin in Florida, state officials ordered local election supervisors yesterday to begin purging voter rolls of felons, reports the Miami Herald. That could take as many as 40,000 people off the rolls, many of them black Democrats.
The issue of felon voting became controversial after the contested 2000 presidential election. Critics said Florida used out-of-state lists to purge former felons, taking voting rights away from people who had committed crimes outside the state and had their voting rights restored in those other states.
Florida is one of a handful of states that does not automatically restore the voting rights of convicted criminals once they leave prison. Felons must ask for the restoration, which in many instances requires approval by the governor and other elected officials.