During his time in office, Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet restored the voting rights of twice as many white former felons compared to black former felons, according to a recent investigation by the Palm Beach Post
Florida is one of only three states in the country that does not automatically restore the voting rights of felons who've completed the sentences for their crimes. The law, which has racist roots in the Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, has helped the state disenfranchise about 1.5 million residents.
Ex-felons who want their voting rights back have to wait at least five years before they can ask for restoration, and then they must appear for judgment before the clemency board run by Scott and his cabinet, with the Republican governor getting the final say. The board meets quarterly to hear fewer than 100 cases, which has created a backlog of about 10,000 cases.
Aside from restoring voting rights at higher percentages for white people, the analysis by the Post
also found that Scott restored rights to "a higher percentage of Republicans and a lower percentage of Democrats than any of his predecessors since 1971."
"Blacks accounted for 27 percent of those who had their voting rights restored despite the fact that 43 percent of those released from state prisons over the past two decades were black," the Post
reports. "Blacks accounted for a lower percentage of restorations under Scott than under any of his predecessors, Republican or Democrat, going back at least half a century."
A spokesperson for Scott's office told the Post
that demographics were "not a factor in this process. Saying otherwise is completely ignoring the facts of how the clemency process works and is irresponsible."
In one instance, the clemency board rejected rights restoration for a black man from Miami who voted illegally eight times and told Scott he attended an event with Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. But Scott and his cabinet restored the voting rights of white man in 2010
who told Scott he had illegally cast a ballot for Scott. The Post
also found one case where a white man from Tampa who voted illegally 12 times had his rights restored after telling the board led by Republicans, "I thought y'all might need my vote."
Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker
ruled Florida's clemency process was an unconstitutional, "nonsensical" scheme and ordered Scott and his cabinet to create a new system. The state has appealed this ruling.
Currently on Florida's ballot is Amendment 4
, a measure that would automatically restore the voting rights of former felons who've completed their sentences, excluding those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. The constitutional amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.