AUGUST 14, 2012 / BY CAMPAIGN STAFF 17,604 Florida citizens remain disenfranchised

On August 1, the ACLU released a statement which included very shocking findings from a recently-filed public records request. Data from the Florida Parole Commission states that 17,604 letters sent to notify individuals who completed terms for felony convictions that their civil and voting rights were restored were never delivered. Instead these letters were returned to the Commission as "undeliverable." Of these, 13,517 people are currently not registered to vote, leading officials to infer that thousands of Florida citizens regained the right to vote but have no idea.

When Florida Governor Charlie Crist stepped into office in 2007, he and Cabinet members passed the Revised Rules of Executive Clemency, an alteration to felony disenfranchisment laws that automatically restored the voting rights and civil rights of persons who completed sentences for level-1 felony convictions. Prior to the reform, the process of restoration was long, complicated and under-used.

According to the ACLU press release 17,604 of these restoration letters are currently "gathering dust in the capitol." The 13,517 names in these stacks of letters that are not registered to vote will most likely have an impact on today's primary elections and, if not rapidly addressed, November's presidential election as well.

ACLU Florida's Executive Director called the state's stark failure to communicate this very important news, ironic, particularly when read in contrast to Governor Rick Scott's claims about voter fraud. Under Gov. Scott's administration, Crist's 2007 reforms were overturned and immense barriers were instituted to prevent restoration of voting and civil rights. Currently, Florida has the highest rates of disenfranchisment of any state, and is one of only four states in the country that ban those with felony convictions from voting for life. Voter suppression and felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects communities of color, with 23% of Blacks in Florida legally unable to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement laws. Drawing from Gov. Scott's vicious attacks on votings rights, the ACLU remains grim about the likelihood that Scott will be proactive about moving the letters along to their rightful recipients.

If you or someone you know have applied for rights restoration but have not recieved a state response, please go to www.restorerights.org, click "How to Restore" and get information on your status and voter regisration. The Florida Parole Comission can be contacted at 1-800-435-8286.

At vote.colorofchange.org we ware closely monitoring voter suppression in the 2012 election season. Visit our website for more information about voting.