Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet are waiting to hear from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the state’s request for a stay of an order by a federal judge that struck down the process by which Florida restores voting rights to ex-felons.
If they don’t hear from the appeals court by 9:30 Wednesday night, Scott and the Cabinet, sitting as the state’s Clemency Board, are prepared to hold an unusual late night meeting to decide its next course of action.
“This will give the 11th Circuit as much time as possible to issue a ruling, while still allowing the Board to meet the lower court’s deadline of April 26th, 2018,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “We are anticipating that the 11th Circuit will rule soon, but if a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the Board to consider how to respond to the lower court’s decision.”
The original order declaring the state’s method of restoring voting rights to former prisoners was handed down earlier this year by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee.
It’s estimated that about 1.5 million convicted felons have been unable to regain their right to vote due to the state’s policy. Since 2011, when the current policy was enacted, felons have been required to wait for at least five years after completing their sentences before they can ask for the restoration of the right to vote.
Walker ruled that policy violated the constitutional rights of felons and gave the state until April 26 to create a new process. The state has appealed that ruling and last week asked the appeals court to stay the ruling to give Florida more time to resolve the matter.
That sets up the possibility for Wednesday night’s meeting of Scott and the Clemency Board. If the state doesn’t hear anything from the appeals court by 9:30 p.m., the board will proceed with its meeting and decide how to respond to Walker’s ruling.
The issue will also be on the ballot this fall. Voters will be asked to decide on a proposed constitutional amendment in November that, if passed by 60 percent of those voting, would change the state Constitution to automatically restore voting rights to felons, excluding those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.