Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Clemency Board made historic changes yesterday to Florida’s clemency system, easing rules that will restore civil rights to tens of thousands of former felons, reports the Miami Herald. The board agreed to make eligible anyone who has remained arrest-free for 15 years, and it loosened the rules that bar thousands of ex-cons from the clemency process. Bush will ask the legislature for more money and staff to reduce an overwhelming backlog of clemency applications.
The changes came after a Herald investigation exposed widespread flaws in the way Florida restores rights to felons who have served their time, including the right to vote, serve on a jury and hold public office. The Herald found that Bush and the board have rejected more than 200,000 civil rights applications since 1999, the highest rejection rate in at least 16 years. Blocked from the polls were thousands of nonviolent felons whose crimes never warranted prison time, and felons whose convictions are decades old.