March 27, 2018

A Florida federal judge on Tuesday ordered the governor to establish a new, uniform system for restoring voting rights to felons after finding that the current process, which gives the governor unfettered discretion, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a permanent injunction against Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet and gave them until April 26 to come up with a new process for restoring voting rights to felons that have completed their sentences.

The judge said that though the voting rights advocates wanted the court to restore the right to vote to any former felon who had completed his or her sentence and waited out five or seven years, he said that is beyond the scope of his authority.

Instead, he ordered the governor to come up with a process that has set regulations and guidelines to ensure a uniform process for every ex-felon who petitions the clemency board for the right to vote.

The nine former felons who filed the putative class suit, with backing from voting rights organization Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, offered the court several examples of apparent partisan and racial bias in the voting rights restoration process.

The plaintiffs are represented by Diana L. Martin, Theodore Jon Leopold and Poorad Razavi of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and Brittnie R. Baker, Jonathan Lee Sherman and Michelle Kanter Cohen of the Fair Elections Legal Network.

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