voting rights

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Florida's legal battle over voting rights for ex-prisoners escalated on Monday, as the state and a voting rights organization representing former felons made dramatically different requests of a federal judge.

Lawyers who have sued Florida want U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to order the automatic restoration of voting rights to anyone who has been out of prison at least five years. Walker ruled earlier this month that the state's system of restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Miami Herald File

For the first time in Florida history, voters will decide whether to grant the right to vote to an estimated 1.5 million convicted felons.

Proposals To Restore Felons' Voting Rights Move Forward

Jan 22, 2018
Vaguely Artistic / Flickr/Creative Commons

Two proposals that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences were approved last week by a Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel.

In a 6-2 vote, the commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee approved a measure (Proposal 7), sponsored by former Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have served their prison time and completed any probation or parole requirements. Felons convicted of murder or sexual offenses would be excluded.

When Sen.-elect Doug Jones, D-Ala., addressed his cheering supporters Tuesday night in Birmingham, Ala., one of his first shout-outs went to his African-American supporters. As well it should have.

On most days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mary Grimes can be found pacing along a crowded street in Orlando, Fla., with clipboards in both hands.

"Can I have five minutes of your time?" the 58-year-old says to a parade of passers-by. Those who are in a rush, she quickly wishes well; the others, Grimes directs to a blue and yellow form, reciting her spiel and soliciting a signature from each.

Florida’s campaign to restore voting rights to felons is gathering national media attention, and national financing. Now activists are trying to focus that energy to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot. WFSU reports on the grassroots campaign to gather 1 million signatures before the end of the year.

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again declined to reinstate North Carolina's strict voter ID law, which was struck down last year after a court ruled it was intentionally designed to stop African-Americans from voting.

The nation's highest court refused to consider an appeal by North Carolina Republicans, NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

"Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the court's refusal to consider an appeal did not signify an opinion on the merits of the case," Fessler says.

An attempt to restore felons’ voting rights in Florida is getting a national boost this week. Comedian Samantha Bee of the TBS show Full Frontal sat down with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Meade is behind a proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore civil rights to felons. Here’s a portion of Bee’s segment.

Fewer felons are getting their voting rights restored under Governor Rick Scott than in the past two administrations. Attorney Brittnie Baker said Scott has denied her clients the right to once again vote because of traffic violations or admitting they drank or used drugs.

When Estelle Schultz, 98, sealed her ballot for the 2016 election, she wanted to snap a photo to commemorate.

She sent it to her granddaughter Sarah Benor, who says she was moved to post the picture on Facebook. Like many posts during this election, it went viral.

Ahead of Election Day next week, election officials around the country are checking and double-checking their equipment to make sure the results are calculated accurately.

Those officials are under increased scrutiny this year with Donald Trump and his allies claiming the voting system could be "rigged" in favor of Democrats. So election administrators around the country are opening the doors to the public to show off the multiple layers of safeguards in the ballot-counting process.

Thinking of memorializing your vote for the upcoming presidential election? You might want to think twice about that.

Florida is one of 18 states where it's illegal to take a selfie with your mail-in ballot or while you're in the voting booth.

Rebekah Entralgo / WLRN

Members and pastors of the community's black churches gathered together in Miami Gardens on Sunday to go to participate in "Souls to the Polls," a nationwide initiative to increase voter participation in the upcoming election.

Betty T. Ferguson park was much more than a park that afternoon. Music was playing and the smell of barbeque was in the air as local pastors and their congregations arrived by the busload to cast their votes early at the polling place.

 

A judge has ruled that Broward County's elections supervisor was doing enough to warn voters about a potential problem with the medical marijuana referendum on their ballots.


Credit Mark Hedden / WLRN

This week on The Florida Roundup...

The State of Florida has budgeted about 12 million dollars to help Miami-Dade County in its efforts to battle Zika and the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Now, Florida's Surgeon General is requesting a comprehensive Zika action plan from the county to detail spending. Mayor Gimenez says he will comply. Does this signify a rift between the state and the county? WLRN's Sammy Mack and The Miami Herald's Daniel Chang fill us in on the latest.

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