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Can felons vote for Trump?

Or, for that matter, can they vote for Clinton? In Florida, the answer may be "no."

In 2011, the Florida Board of Executive Clemency (which included Governor Rick Scott) tightened the rules of clemency for ex-offenders and implemented a new policy that requires ex-felons to wait five to seven years before applying to regain their voting rights.

Some quick facts

Before looking at how an ex-felon can get their right to vote restored, it's interesting to note that:

  • In Florida, persons convicted of felonies are ineligible to vote while incarcerated, on parole or on probation.
  • There are over 1.6 million ex-felons in Florida who cannot vote. That's about 9 percent of the state's population; in other states, the average is 2 percent or less.
  • One in four black Floridians are not eligible to vote due to a felony conviction.
  • Under former Governor Charlie Crist, over 155,000 nonviolent felons had their voting rights restored between 2007-2011.
  • Under Governor Scott, approximately 1,534 nonviolent felons have had their voting rights restored. More than 11,000 others are awaiting a response to their application.

So can they vote or not?

Currently, the procedure for restoring voting rights depends on the severity and nature of the underlying conviction. The restoration process also requires that ex-felons demonstrate they "desire and deserve" restoration of their voting rights. Notably:

  • An ex-felon seeking restoration of their voting rights must submit an application to the Clemency Board.
  • Applicants who have been convicted of certain serious felony crimes like murder, sex offenses or drug trafficking, for example, are eligible to apply seven years after completing their sentences. Their applications are then considered by the Board at a formal hearing.
  • Applicants who have been convicted of lesser felonies are eligible to apply five years after completing their sentences and their applications don't require a hearing.

Recent efforts have pushed for a state constitutional amendment that would return voting rights to ex-felons convicted of nonviolent offenses once they have served their sentences. At present, however, restoring a felon's right to vote is not a sure thing. For more information on the interplay between felony convictions and voting rights, you should contact an established criminal defense attorney.

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