Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Activists call for change in law barring felons from voting in Florida

TAMPA — Under a baking sun, church leaders and voting activists gathered Monday outside the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office to call for a constitutional amendment in Florida to restore felons' voting rights.

Many were given white shirts that read: "Let my people vote.''

Florida, along with just two other states, permanently bars felons and ex-felons from voting. They can petition the governor and state Clemency Board to get that right restored, but relatively few try. There are currently about 1.5 million people in Florida who cannot vote because of past offenses.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, was among the group of 20 people outside the elections office Monday. She called the bar "a stain on Florida.''

"The state is never going to reach its full potential unless its citizens get their full potential," said Castor, who was joined by members of the Hillsborough County chapter of the NAACP, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the League of Women Voters.

Castor said change needs to come from the governor and Legislature.

In 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet voted to make it easier for felons to regain their civil rights, but those reforms were changed in 2011 when Gov. Rick Scott and a different Cabinet voted to require felons to wait at least five years after serving their sentence to reapply.

Between 2007 and 2010, while Crist was governor, 155,314 offenders had their rights restored. Between 2011 and 2014, under Gov. Rick Scott, only 1,551 people got their voting rights back.

Benny Small, president of Hills­borough's NAACP chapter, said he is concerned that the law restricts people who are nonviolent offenders and have already served their time.

"Law enforcement, faith leaders, employers and a large majority of Floridians from all walks of life support people being able to earn back their right to vote because it gives them a stake in the community and makes it less likely they will end up back in prison," he said.

The Rev. James T. Gold, pastor of Ward Temple A.M.E. Church in Bradenton, said people of faith should speak out against the law. He said it's not fair to punish people forever for a crime.

"If you have served the penalty of your crime, you should have your rights restored," he said.

Contact Ariana Figueroa at afigueroa@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3350. Follow @ArianaLFigueroa.

Activists call for change in law barring felons from voting in Florida 08/01/16 [Last modified: Monday, August 1, 2016 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others

    Stage

    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  2. Bucs-Vikings: What could make Tampa Bay's defense elite again

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The last time the Bucs had a top-five defense also happens to be when they last appeared in the postseason.

    Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) celebrates after recovering a fumble by Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Top 5 at noon: Detours, delays on I-75 in Pasco; last call for New World Brewery; and more

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

    Road crews clean up a mess of crash debris - and pumpkins - left behind after a fiery semitrailer truck crash on Interstate 75 in Pasco County on Sept. 22, 2017. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  4. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  5. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?

    Blogs

    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.