State Attorney calls Florida’s ex-felon rights process a “poll tax”

Tampa Tiger Bay rights restoration forum

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If supporters can gather another 700,000 certified signatures by February 1, Floridians will vote in November of 2018 whether to grant most ex-felons their civil rights, including the right to vote; on Friday the Tampa Tiger Bay Club hosted five supporters of the proposed amendment.

One is Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. He lost his civil rights after a felony conviction. Meade was asked to describe the face of someone who would benefit if the amendment passed.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, who called the expenses associated with rights restoration a “poll tax.”

Other panelists were Reggie Garcia, Florida Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa) and Dr. Joyce Hamilton Henry of the ACLU of Florida.


  • rogerclegg

    The right to vote should be restored only after a person has shown he has turned over s new leaf — not automatically since most felons end up back in prison. If you won’t follow the law then you can’t make it for others.

    • Stefan Malizia

      I wonder though if such recidivism may at least partly result from the stigma that follows ex-felons and makes it difficult to find employment, housing, etc. Remaining disenfranchised after one’s release seems like adding even more insult to injury, reminding these people that they are still considered “second-class citizens” in they eyes of not just individuals in their community, but by their very government.

      Plus, what’s the worst that could happen if an ex-felon voted without “turning a new leaf”–there’s typically no “pro-crime, pro-violence” candidate or measure on the ballot…

      • rogerclegg

        Thx, Stefan, for your thoughtful reply. I think there is always a cost to letting an unqualified person vote, whether it’s a minor or a noncitizen or an insane person or a felon. And we miss an opportunity to encourage people to turn over a new leaf by automatic reenfranchisement. I’d advocate a ceremony like a naturalization ceremony when the right to vote is restored to those who earn it, with an official congratulation in front of friends and family. That would be a moving and meaningful incentive.

        • Willie Lois Davis

          What about a previous felony conviction makes a person unqualified to vote? Both of the people leading this effort have very smart men Democrat and Republican that made a mistake, how are they unqualified to. Can pass the Florida Bar but not smart enough to vore.

          • rogerclegg

            It’s not about intelligence — it’s about meeting certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility, loyalty,and commitment to our laws that we require for people to have a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government. So we don’t let children vote, or noncitizens, or the insane, or those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens. It’s not permanent in any case: children grow up, noncitizens can naturalize, the insane can get well, and felons can show they have turned over a new leaf.

          • Willie Lois Davis

            Our governing bodies set terms and conditions for someone that breaks the law and once those conditions have all been met there is no reason to deny the restoration of all rights of citizenship. This is just another tool used for one group to exert control over another. I’m just glad 47 other state’s have gotten this right and we are working on turning this over in backward a.. Florida.

        • GMT

          An “unqualified person” — what is your definition of an unqualified person? Who decides who is qualified? What are the qualifications? What are the costs of an “unqualified” person voting?

    • Willie Lois Davis

      Once a person has completed their time and probation their rights should be restored. It’s not the state’s place to be a nanny state. If they commit another felony then their rights will be revoked again. We are behind state’s like Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi on this. Should not be behind these state’s on anything.

    • Fritzie Gaccione

      Most feloins end up back in prison because the prison industrial complex wants them there. It is their bread and butter. Laws and public sentiment make it difficult for the formerly incarcerated to succeed on the outside.

  • GMT

    Have you ever read the application a person has to fill out to gain his/her franchise back? It’s only use is to make people jump hoops when these folks already have enough hoops to jump trying to find jobs. Just having served time, completed a program — whatever the sentence was — is paying the debt. So civil rights should be restored. And a poll tax has long ago been declared unconstitutional.