Florida is one of three states that permanently revokes the civil rights of anyone convicted of a felony, a system that has disenfranchised an estimated 1.5 million people. Even after felons complete their sentences, pay their fines and serve probation, they must wait at least five years to ask the state to restore their rights, and that can take a decade or more, the Miami Herald reports. Most people don’t bother. Many who try will die before their cases are heard.
Four times a year, Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet considers requests by fewer than 100 people at a time to restore their right to vote, run for office, or own a gun. With more than 20,000 people trapped in the clemency pipeline, and with a governor and legislature unwilling to hire more people to review cases, the backlog will last forever. Former Gov. Charlie Crist led an effort in 2007 to give amnesty to many felons, who regained their civil rights without hearings. Scott and his fellow Republicans changed the law in 2011 to make it harder for felons to regain their rights.The backlog is growing once again, and the struggle is harder than ever.