TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat on the state Executive Board of Clemency, called Friday for Gov. Ron DeSantis to schedule a meeting next month to discuss changing rules that govern the state's process of restoring felons' civil rights.
"There are more than 100,000 disenfranchised Floridians with open, pending application for full restoration of civil rights," Fried wrote in a letter to DeSantis and his fellow Republicans on the clemency board, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Fried said the backlog of cases could be remedied by amending clemency rules, which have changed over the years under different state leaders.
In statements to The News Service of Florida, the offices of the governor, Patronis and Moody have indicated interest in changes to address the backlog of cases. But they have not offered details about what they would like to see done.
Fried said Wednesday she would like to have the rules changed to mirror 2007 rules under former Gov. Charlie Crist, who was a Republican at the time but is now a Democratic congressman.
Under the 2007 rules, felons whose crimes were not considered violent regained their civil rights upon their release from prison and after the state made sure they had paid restitution to victims and did not have pending criminal charges.
The clemency board under former Republican Gov. Rick Scott changed the rules in 2011 to require felons to wait five or seven years after their sentences were complete to apply to have rights restored.
Lauren Schenone, a Moody spokeswoman, said in a statement that the attorney general is interested in updating the clemency rules to reduce the backlog of cases, but wants it done in an "open and transparent manner."
Fried called on the governor to schedule a clemency board meeting following an Oct. 8 Cabinet meeting.
The governor's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether he would honor this request.