10% of Floridians Can’t Vote
This November 8th, I look forward to exercising my right to vote and have my say in how we should govern ourselves and who should lead us. I hope you’ll join me. If, that is, the state of Florida allows you to do so.
Many people do not know this, but over 6 million Americans with felony convictions are not permitted to vote. About a quarter of those are currently behind bars. The rest are on parole, on probation, or have completely served out their sentence and had their basic freedoms restored. They now live by the same rules as everyone else, and yet they have no say in what those rules are.
Florida carries the dishonorable distinction of being the state with the greatest percentage of people who cannot vote due to their criminal record, at 10.4%, according to a New York Times report. In Florida, a felony conviction usually means you lose your right to vote for life – even after you finish serving time. Just two other states have penalties this harsh.
You might feel this is a reasonable punishment for a felony conviction. But as a Miami criminal defense attorney, I can tell you that the law does not always treat people equally. Lower-income individuals and minorities, taken as a whole, get it worse than other groups. They are disproportionately more likely to be charged with crimes, prosecuted, and convicted.
Fourteen states automatically restore voting rights when a felon is released. I believe that after you have served your time, you should rejoin the ranks of Americans who get to proudly cast a vote that reflects their values and their hopes for the country.