(National Sentinel) Judicial Activism: A federal judge nominated to the bench in 2012 by President Obama has ordered the state of Florida to ignore a 150-year-old law and immediately restore voting rights to convicted felons.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee issued a permanent injunction supporting the Fair Elections Legal Network, a group that sued the country’s third-largest state a year ago.
The group has thus far successfully challenged the constitutionality of Florida’s century-and-a-half voting rights restoration process for felons, the Miami Herald reported.
“This is a victory for the principle that the right to vote cannot be subjected to officials’ gut instincts and whims,” said Jon Sherman, senior counsel for the nonprofit voting rights group.
“We are also heartened that the court prevented Florida from following through on its threat to be the only state in the nation with an irrevocable lifetime ban on voting for all former felons — what the court called ‘the ultimate arbitrary act,'” he added, according to the Herald.
The office of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, defended the state’s current law and process.
“Officials elected by Floridians, not judges, have the authority to determine Florida’s clemency process for convicted felons,” spokesman John Tupps said. “This is outlined in Florida’s Constitution and has been in place for more than a century and under multiple gubernatorial administrations.”
He added that Scott — who is expected to declare his candidacy for U.S. Senate on April 9 — “believes that people who have been convicted of felony offenses, including crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.”
Supporters of the decision said that the law — Florida is one of four states that permanently strip the right to vote for felons, though there is a process in place for them to have the right restored — disproportionately affect African-Americans, who traditionally vote for Democrats.
Under Florida’s current law, a felon can have his or her voting rights restored by a majority vote of the governor and his or her Cabinet.
An estimated 1.5 million Floridians have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions, the Herald reported.
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