Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in Florida
A summary of current felony disenfranchisement policies and legislative advocacy in Florida.
Florida has one of the most punitive disenfranchisement policies in the country, permanently barring all citizens with felony convictions from voting unless they individually apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency for rights restoration.
For many years, Florida’s harshest-in-the-nation disenfranchisement policy has received attention from policymakers and advocates alike.
In 2000, the Brennan Center and co-counsel, representing more than 600,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit – Johnson v. Bush – that challenged Florida’s permanent disenfranchisement constitutional provision. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, ultimately allowed the law to stand.
In April 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist took an incremental step towards reform when he issued revised rules of executive clemency. Notably, this change created automatic rights restoration for people completing sentences for certain felony convictions. A year later, in 2008, Gov. Crist’s office announced that over 115,000 Floridians had regained voting rights since the new rules were implemented.
In March 2011, Gov. Scott eliminated Gov. Crist’s reforms by and created additional barriers for people seeking to have their voting rights restored. The Brennan Center and other national civil rights organizations strongly opposed the plan in a joint letter to the Florida Clemency Board. The American Probation and Parole Association also submitted its own letter encouraging the Board to maintain Gov. Crist’s clemency reforms.
Brennan Center Materials
- Floridians Should Agree to Restore Voting Rights for People with Past Convictions, Kwame Akosah (Mar. 6, 2017)
- Florida: An Outlier in Denying Voting Rights, Erika Wood (Dec. 16, 2016)
- Reubin Askew, Champion of Voting Rights (Mar. 14, 2014)
- Featured Voice: An Interview with Desmond Meade (Jan. 31, 2014)
- Turning Back the Clock in Florida, Erika Wood (Mar. 11, 2011)
- FL: Still Much Work to Be Done, Kahlil Williams (June 20, 2008)
- Restoring the Right to Vote Gains Momentum, Erika Wood (Apr. 9, 2007)
- Brennan Center Applauds Gov. Crist, But Finds Flaws With Florida’s New Voting Rights Rules (Apr. 7, 2007)
- Restoring Voting Rights: A Progressive Goal Conservatives Can Share, James Sample (Apr. 3, 2007)
- Fact Sheet on Discriminatory History of Florida’s Felony Disenfranchisement Law (Mar. 31, 2006)
- Florida Fact Sheet on Bias in the Criminal Justice System (Jan. 19, 2006)
- Johnson v. Bush (Nov. 14, 2005)
- Let Florida Felons Vote, Deborah Goldberg, New York Times (Mar. 27, 2005)
- Floridians Who Can’t Vote, Jessie Allen, New York Times (Apr. 4, 2004)
- Locking Out the Vote, Jessie Allen, American Lawyer (Apr. 1, 2003)
- An “Unhealthy Democracy” Florida Court Case Highlights Felon Disenfranchisement Crisis in U.S. [Editorial Memorandum] (July 2, 2002)
- Florida's Top Court Green Lights Voting Right for Felons Ballot Question, Charlie Frago & Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times (April 20, 2017)
- Restoration of Voting Rights Could Be Put on Ballot, Dara Kam & Jim Turner, Sun Sentinel (Sept. 15, 2016)
- Ex-Felons Fight to Restore Their Right to Vote, Renata Sago, NPR (Dec. 11, 2015)
- Thanks to Republicans, Nearly a Quarter of Florida’s Black Citizens Can’t Vote, Spencer Woodman, The Intercept (Dec. 9, 2015)
- Florida Leads the Pack – in Felon Disenfranchisement, Brent Staples, New York Times (Nov. 7, 2015)
Brennan Center Publications
- Restoring the Right to Vote, Erika Wood (2009)
- The Brennan Center’s policy proposal for restoring voting rights for citizens with past criminal convictions.
- My First Vote (2009)
- Testimonials of individuals who regained their voting rights after being disenfranchised because of past criminal convictions.
- De Facto Disenfranchisement, Erika Wood & Rachel Bloom (2008)
- A report on how complex laws, poorly informed officials, and misinformation lead to the de facto disenfranchisement of citizens with past criminal convictions who are eligible to vote.
- Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History, Erin Kelley (2017)
- A piece examining the historical roots of criminal disenfranchisement laws that today strip voting rights from millions of U.S. citizens.