Florida is a state found in the southeastern region of the United States of America. Its name means the ‘land of flowers’ in Spanish. The first inhabitants of Florida arrived around 12, 000 years ago. But it was only in 1513 when the first written record about Florida was made by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. Florida became the twenty-seventh state of the United States of America in March 3, 1845.
As of December 31, 2014, there are 100,873 housed throughout all Florida public prisons; 92.9% of which are male and 7.1% are female. During the same year, 32, 291 inmates were released while 32, 442 were admitted into prison. Meanwhile 86, 369 were sentenced to community supervision. Meanwhile, 87, 533 were released from said supervision. During their stay in Florida prisons, the inmates engage in worthwhile activities such as planting vegetables and other crops.
The main purpose of corrections is to reform the offender. When the inmate is released back into society, most of his rights are restored. However, some States still do not allow the inmate to vote even after he has served his sentence. In a democratic country like the United States, the right to suffrage is one of the most important rights one could have.
Can felons vote in Florida?
However, in the State of Florida, a convicted felon cannot vote, sit as a jury, run and hold public office, until his or her political and civil rights have been restored. Furthermore, the Florida Constitution provides that a convicted felon cannot possess and use firearms.
According to the Sentencing Project, a prison-reform group, around 9% of Florida’s population cannot vote due to criminal conviction. This translates to more than 1.6 million people unable to exercise their right of suffrage, higher than most states.
Out of all states, Florida is one of three states which disenfranchise ex-felons from voting unless it is restored via clemency – the other two states being Iowa and Kentucky.
As argued by those who propose to eliminate felon disenfranchisement, barring felons to vote is contrary to the very purpose of democracy. Over the years, more and more people are unable to vote.
How can felons restore voting rights in Florida?
The Governor of Florida, together with two cabinet members, is vested with the power to grant clemency to former offenders to restore their right to suffrage. The Governor also has the power to deny clemency. However, this can only be applied for five years after completing his sentence. Furthermore, if the offender was convicted of crimes of violent, sexual or drug-trafficking, he or she must wait for seven years.
Florida makes it very hard for former felons to vote again. As a result, more and more individuals are permanently disqualified from voting. Some experts express their concern that this may affect American democracy in the future.