Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled against the onerous process by which people with past felony convictions in Florida plea for restoration of their voting rights. While the impacted population is still not able to register to vote, the ruling striking the state’s cumbersome and arbitrary process is welcome news. Advancement Project’s national office, a racial justice organization fighting to restore voting rights to 1.6 million Florida citizens with felony convictions who cannot vote, issued the following statement:
“This is an important decision that supports the fundamental right to vote in the Sunshine State and the grassroots leadership of returning citizens, including members of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition,” said Andrea Mercado, Executive Director of New Florida Majority, an Advancement Project partner. “The court recognizes what millions of Floridians – from newspaper editorial boards and churches to law enforcement officials and everyday citizens – know: that the current system that restores voting of those who have served their time is long, arduous and unconstitutional.”
“As in other states, the practice of banning voting rights for people with past felony convictions is an ugly remnant of the Jim Crow era,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project’s national office. “In Florida’s case, the restoration of rights process is just more ominous and humiliating. This ruling brings a sliver of justice. Importantly, this change in narrative and push toward justice is the result of the hard work of people in community and in the streets. Victories like this one are how we remove barriers to the ballot. Piece by piece, we are undoing the legacy of the confederacy and getting closer to an affirmative right to vote.”
In his decision, Judge Walker found that Florida’s arbitrary voting rights restoration process for people with felony convictions violates the First Amendment’s right of free association and free expression and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high-quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.