Florida must do more to help felons leaving prison restore their voting rights, an appeals court ruled Wednesday. The decision reversed an earlier court ruling that said the state was meeting its obligations by electronically informing clemency officials of felons’ status. The unanimous ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal said state prison officials must provide the forms felons need to get their voting rights back and help fill them out, reports the St. Petersburg Times.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and other organizations that assist ex-convicts. “The question for the governor now is whether the state will stubbornly insist on maintaining its unjust and archaic system of lifetime disenfranchisement,” said Howard Simon of the ACLU. Florida is one of seven states that do not automatically restore voting rights to released felons. They must apply to the Board of Executive Clemency, comprising the governor and Cabinet. The state’s executive clemency laws have remained virtually unchanged since 1868, when lawmakers sought to deter ex-slaves from voting.