October 10, 2018
People convicted of felony offenses often continue to struggle with the consequences for years after their release. Felony convictions are included on your criminal record, and most background checks will reveal them. Felony convictions can make finding employment, obtaining federal loans, and securing housing more difficult.
A felony conviction can also revoke your right to vote. Florida is one of the three states, along with Iowa and Kentucky, that permanently bars all citizens with felony convictions from voting. However, if you live in Florida and were convicted of a felony, you can restore your right to vote. The process, however, is complex, and it requires the help of an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney.
In 2007, Florida passed rules that allowed the state’s parole commission, rather than the governor, to restore the voting rights of convicted felons without a hearing, and after one year. The following year, the state reinstated the voting rights of more than 100,000 convicted felons. However, Florida changed the system in 2011, making it more difficult to apply, and since then the state reinstated the voting rights of fewer than 3,000 convicted felons.
Currently, people convicted of a felony may still apply to reinstate their voting rights, but they must wait five years after their conviction. The governor, along with three cabinet members, considers the applications and determines whether to reinstate a person’s right to vote.
This process, however, has come under scrutiny, with the governor issuing reinstatements without established guidelines. Under the current scheme, the governor can veto any request unilaterally, and at any time, making the process particularly arbitrary. Due to the system’s flawed decision-making process, a federal district judge recently ordered Florida’s government to revise its system of restoring voting rights to convicted felons to make it more fair.
While Florida remains one of the strictest states for ex-felons wishing to restore their voting rights, all hope is not lost. The federal district court’s recent ruling, if upheld, means the state must improve its system to include more well-defined guidelines. An experienced criminal defense attorney will keep you up to date on any changes to the state’s system.
Voting Is More Important Than Ever—Call the Khonsari Law Group Today
If you are a convicted felon who wants to exercise your rights as a citizen and vote, don’t give up on reinstating your voting rights. People who have paid their debts to society and completed the conditions of their sentences should have an opportunity to weigh in on political issues, select candidates to support, and vote for those candidates on Election Day. Despite recent progress toward a more accessible and just system of reinstating voting rights, the process remains complicated.
Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help demystify the procedure and determine whether you are eligible to apply. If you were convicted of a felony and wish to reinstate your right to vote, call the Khonsari Law Group today at (727) 269-5300, or contact us online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.