Floridians Who Can't Vote

April 4, 2004

New York Times
April 4, 2004

Floridians Who Cant Vote
By Jessie Allen

To the Editor:

Your March 28 front-page article “Disenfranchised Florida Felons Struggle to Regain Their Rights” has done a service in calling attention to Florida’s real affront to democracy. In Johnson v. Bush, a case you mentioned, the Brennan Center represents more than 600,000 Florida citizens who, having been previously convicted of felonies, remain barred from voting there despite having fully served their sentences.

As the article showed, the state’s clemency process is a ceremony, not a solution. At the current rate 14,828 Floridians had their voting rights restored last year it will take 40 years for our clients to regain the most basic right of citizenship. The state has yet to explain how allowing them into the voting booth would hurt them or their neighbors. But disenfranchising 5 percent of the state’s potential voters clearly hurts democracy.

The writer was associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, N.Y.U. School of Law.