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DeSantis, Clemency Board remove 5-year waiting period to restore civil rights to felons

Desmond Meade's appeal for pardon denied
Florida lawmakers get guidance to improve felon voting eligibility
Posted at 12:39 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 12:40:30-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis and the Clemency Board removed the minimum five-year waiting period for felons to apply to have civil rights restored, including the right to vote.

In addition to the rule changes, DeSantis and the clemency board on Wednesday denied the request for a pardon by Desmond Meade, the director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition who achieved international fame for his voting-rights efforts.

People who have their civil rights restored are three times less likely to re-offend, according to a review by the Florida Parole Commission

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition submitted proposed clemency reforms to DeSantis in February 2020. The plan eliminated the five- and seven-year waiting periods and would create a streamlined process for felons eligible under Amendment 4 to have their voting rights restored without an application.

Critics of Florida’s clemency system have pointed to a process that can take years to navigate. When the Clemency Board met in September, the Florida Commission on Offender Review had a backlog of 24,000 felons seeking restoration of rights with or without hearings.

DeSantis’ plan would require felons to apply to have their rights restored with or without a hearing but would speed up the process by creating an “automatic” rights restoration for those who have paid all court-ordered financial obligations and can document that they have done so.

Fried, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, has pushed DeSantis and other Clemency Board members to make it easier for felons to have their rights restored.