A Felon In Florida? No Vote For You

by Tracy R. Walsh

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Jessica Chiappone laments losing her rights at the ballot box after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess cocaine:

I served seven months in a federal prison in Texas, where I was subjected to strip searches every other day after being sent into a forest to chop trees. I spent one year in a halfway house in Brooklyn, and then three years on supervised release – one year earlier than projected. I graduated from college with a degree in criminal justice. I found a job and paid my taxes. I became a mother, graduated from law school and passed the New York State Bar Exam. … Despite my time served and my accomplishments as a legitimate contributing member of society, my fundamental right to vote in Florida was denied – along with several other rights that are supposed to be inalienable in America.

The United States passively accepts the existence of second-class citizenship. Rather than provide an opportunity for automatic restoration of voting rights, Florida imposes a subjective review process that leaves the formerly incarcerated with no clear standard to meet: intrusive and uninformed questions about financial stability, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS – none of which are barriers to voting for those not convicted of crimes, nor should they ever be.

Last month, Eric Holder urged states to “fundamentally reconsider” the practice. Recent Dish on the subject here.

(Map of state felony disenfranchisement laws via ACLU)