March 28, 2018

A federal judge permanently blocked Florida’s “fatally flawed” process of restoring voting rights, giving Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Executive Clemency a month to come up with a new system of providing ex-felons the right to vote.

In Tuesday’s order, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker repeatedly chided Scott and the state clemency board -- comprised of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- for the current restoration process and for threatening to scrap the system altogether after the judge last month struck down the process as unconstitutional.

Walker, siding with the voting-rights group Fair Elections Legal Network, last month found that the state’s clemency system is arbitrary and violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

In his Feb. 1 order, Walker asked both sides to propose a new method to restore voting rights to ex-felons, who now must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have their rights restored in a process Walker said gives “unfettered discretion” to the board.

In a brief filed last month, attorneys for the state argued that Florida could permanently do away with the restoration of civil rights, sparking a rebuke from Walker in Tuesday’s order.

“This court is not the Vote-Restoration Czar. It does not pick and choose who may receive the right to vote and who may not,” Walker began Tuesday’s 22-page order.

Walker accused the state of choosing to “essentially repackage the current scheme” that would allow Scott and the clemency board “to do, as the governor described, ‘whatever we want’ in denying voting rights to hundreds of thousands of their constituents.”

“This will not do,” Walker wrote.

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