Bondi wants to do away with automatic restoration of rights for felonsby Dara Kam | February 24th, 2011
Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to do away completely with the state’s limited automatic restoration of rights for felons even as civil rights groups are seeking an expansion of it.
In Florida, certain felons automatically get their rights restored upon completion of their sentences and restitution.
But Bondi, a Republican and former prosecutor, says the current system goes too easy on criminals.
“I don’t believe any felony should have an automatic restoration of rights. I believe you should have to ask and there should be an appropriate waiting period,” Bondi told reporters after a clemency meeting this morning.
Bondi said she wants a three-to-five year waiting period before convicted felons can appeal to have their rights restored.
The years-long waiting period will help clear up a backlog of more than 100,000 convicted felons trying to get their rights back.
Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet, acting as the board of clemency, approved new rules nearly four years ago making it easier for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes to have their civil rights restored.
Bondi’s predecessor Bill McCollum cast the lone dissenting vote on the rule change.
Now, felons convicted of nonviolent crimes who have fulfilled their sentences will be allowed to vote, hold public office, apply for occupational licenses and sit on juries without applying for clemency, a cumbersome process that can take years. The 2007 change also expedited the process for felons convicted of some violent crimes.
Florida first banned voting by felons in 1845, and the ban was put into the state constitution in 1868.
Voting rights for felons was one of the issues in the disputed 2000 presidential election, when many people, mostly black, were wrongly purged from voter rolls because of an error-riddled state voter database that misidentified them as felons.