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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Two election supervisors endorse civil rights ballot proposal



Two Florida supervisors of election want the Florida Supreme Court to approve language for a proposed constitutional amendment to make it easier for convicted felons to regain their civil rights.

Supervisors Brenda Snipes in Broward, the state's largest Democrat-dominated county, and Ion Sancho in Leon, in the state capital of Tallahassee, filed their advisory opinion with the court.

The proposal, known as the voting restoration amendment, would allow people who have completed all terms of their sentences to regain the right to vote, serve on a jury and run for office. It would not apply to people convicted of murder or sex-related crimes.

If approved by voters, the change would undo a policy enacted by Gov. Rick Scott and the three newly-elected Cabinet members, all four of whom are Republicans, shortly after they all took office in 2011.

In their filing with the Supreme Court on Monday, the two supervisors argued that Florida's system disproportionately disenfranchises African-Americans.

"Felony disenfranchisement raises profound questions about democratic inclusion and racial justice," Snipes and Sancho told the court. "Denying voting rights to persons with prior felony convictions weakens social networks and adversely affects the capacity of high incarceration communities to participate fully in democratic institutions."

The justices will decide whether the proposal passes legal muster. It is unusual for election supervisors to take a public stand on a ballot initiative. Snipes, a Democrat, was recently re-elected to a four-year term. Sancho, an independent, will retire in January after nearly three decades as an election supervisor.

Sancho said he was encouraged to submit his opinion by the ACLU of Florida, which supports the restoration proposal. If the court approves the language of the proposal and supporters collect the required number of signatures, it will go before Florida voters in the 2018 general election.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 1:57pm]


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