Florida Attorney General’s office is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to stay a ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker earlier this year that declared Florida’s clemency system unconstitutional and ordered state leaders must change the process used for restoring voting rights to former prisoners.
The request was filed Monday morning. Gov. Rick Scott’s office was quick to release a statement in support of the filing.
“Judge Walker recklessly ordered elected officials to change decades of practice in a matter of weeks. This does not give the victims of crimes the voice they deserve,” said John Tupps, the governor’s communications director. “The Governor will always stand with victims of crimes, not criminals. Let’s remember, these criminals include those convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence.”
The state’s request for a stay from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals follows an appeal that was filed earlier this month seeking a stay of Walker’s ruling which blocked the state’s current system for restoring the voting rights of ex-felons. That system currently requires them to wait at least five years before they can ask for the right to vote. Walker’s order gave Scott and state officials until April 26, a little over a week away, to come up with a new system to restore the right to vote.
Walker denied the state’s request for a stay within hours after the request was made, responding with a sharply worded ruling.
“Rather than comply with the requirements of the United States Constitution, defendants continue to insist they can do whatever they want with hundreds of thousands of Floridians’ voting rights and absolutely zero standards,” Walker wrote.
In its filing Monday, the state continued to defend the 150-year-old system system for restoring voting rights and said the 30-day time frame Walker imposed to change the system was not realistic.
“The 30-day deadline was unprompted and arbitrary,” the state argued. “The state has an interest in avoiding chaos and uncertainty in its election procedures, and not be forced to employ a rushed decision making process on an artificial deadline now.”
It’s estimated that 1.5 million Floridians have been permanently disenfranchised from voting as the result of being a convicted felon. The state has a current backlog of more than 10,000 cases of felons who have petitioned the state to have their civil rights restored.
The system that was struck down by the judge had been in place since shortly after Scott took office seven years ago. It requires convicted felons to wait at least five years after completion of their sentences before they petition the state for the restoration of their civil rights. Those felons convicted of murder or sex offenses are required to wait seven years.