Federal judge scolds Florida for ‘fit of histrionics’ over restoration of felons’ voting rights

Constitutional Law

- Federal judge scolds Florida for ‘fit of histrionics’ over restoration of felons’ voting rights

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U.S. District Judge Mark Walker was thoroughly unpersuaded by Florida officials’ request for a stay of his order requiring the state to create new rules for the restoration of voting rights of felons by April 26.

Florida officials “fall woefully short” of the burden required of a stay in a motion that is “littered” with “astounding arguments,” Walker said in Wednesday’s order denying the stay request. Courthouse News Service covered his opinion.

Gov. Rick Scott and other defendants “stamp their feet and wail” about the 30-day time frame, but drafting new rules that meet constitutional standards shouldn’t be complicated or time-consuming, Walker said. Instead of starting the drafting process, “defendants embark on a fit of histrionics,” he said.

Walker, a federal judge in Tallahassee, had ruled in February that Florida’s system for restoring felons’ voting rights gives the clemency board too much discretion, allowing for potential bias and violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. He also saw a First Amendment violation of the right to free expression and political association.

Walker wrote in his Feb. 1 opinion that the Florida system “strips the right to vote from every man and woman convicted of a felony” and requires those wanting to vote again to “kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority.”

“No standards guide the panel,” which has “unfettered discretion,” he said.

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Florida is one of four states requiring felons to petition to restore their voting rights, according to Courthouse News Service. In Florida, felons aren’t eligible to apply until at least five years after completing their sentence.

The state has appealed Walker’s decision, report the Tampa Bay Times and the Associated Press.

See also:

Tampa Bay Times: “Meet Mark Walker, the judge who keeps clashing with Rick Scott”


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